Definition of claw in English:

claw

noun

  • 1A curved pointed horny nail on each digit of the foot in birds, lizards, and some mammals.

    • ‘Lured into a folk chemist, I ducked beneath lizard claws and snake skins, dodged the birds' feet and goat horns.’
    • ‘The Cape clawless otter derives its name from the fact that there are no claws on the digits.’
    • ‘He lunged at me, diving down like an eagle towards a fish in the stream, extending longer and deadlier claws than any bird of prey could boast of.’
    • ‘Like many other rodents, all squirrels have five functional toes on the hindfeet and four on the forefeet, with a well-developed claw on each digit.’
    • ‘Birds that cling to and climb the sides of trees, like woodpeckers and nuthatches, have strongly curved claws.’
    • ‘All digits have claws, which are not large but are very sharp.’
    • ‘They have 5 digits, each with long and sharp claws, the third claw being especially well developed.’
    • ‘The limbs are only moderately long, and the feet are narrow, with four main digits and short claws.’
    • ‘He was also presented with a special ceremonial stick with a real eagle's claw attached.’
    • ‘In mammals, alpha-keratin is found in hair, bristles, hooves, nails, and claws as well as in soft skin.’
    • ‘The cat jumped to a height of two metres or more, hooked the bird with the claws of one outstretched paw and brought it crashing down to earth.’
    • ‘His hands are the same, long, clever fingers, five of them, with webbing stretched between and ending in wicked, slightly curved, claws.’
    • ‘The unguals are curved and taper to a sharp point, indicating that the digits terminated in distinct claws.’
    • ‘Stalls sold everything from dried lizards and birds' claws to spanners, nails and toothpaste.’
    • ‘Without glue, suction, or claws, these lizards scamper up walls and hang from ceilings.’
    • ‘His tail was wrapped around the pipe to hold himself steady and his claws were curved and elongated to hold him fast.’
    • ‘Yet these earlier birds did not possess claws on their wings or teeth in their beaks.’
    • ‘But those don't look like cat claw marks.’
    • ‘A bird's claw was gripping the end of the hilt.’
    • ‘The creature's claws were as curved like scythes, and as long as long swords.’
    nail, talon
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Either of a pair of small hooked appendages on an insect's foot.
      • ‘In other words, they can grab a piece of food with the little claws on their feet, taste it, then bring it up to their mouth and taste it again.’
      • ‘Since the claw flexor muscle in insects has no antagonist, claws and arolium are moved back by elastic recoil of stretched exocuticle.’
      • ‘To hold on, insects, including ants, rely on small claws or on sticky foot secretions.’
    2. 1.2 The pincer of a crab, scorpion, or other arthropod.
      • ‘Other starters included crispy potato skins with bacon and cheddar, Caesar salad, New Zealand mussels, crab claws and chowder.’
      • ‘But then Johnson saw the red claw and other characteristics of female crabs.’
      • ‘Top with the meat of one lobster claw and knuckle and half of one lobster tail.’
      • ‘The lamb is divine, and the feast includes crab claws, soup, homemade scones and rhubarb tart.’
      • ‘The smoker returned in time for the special starter of fresh crab meat with crab claws.’
      • ‘She was slightly less pleased with her crab and prawn thermidor, having expected a dish of crab claws and prawns rather than the tasty stew topped with crumble she received.’
      • ‘The male fiddler crab bangs territorial warnings into the sand with its oversized claw.’
      • ‘In some species, large males may use their major claw to kill smaller crabs.’
      • ‘The fiery broth is overflowing with tender calamari, a crab claw, shrimp, chunks of fish and one impeccable scallop.’
      • ‘We scramble between fishing rods, cameras and delicious crab claws, reluctant to sacrifice any of the three.’
      • ‘In some chelicerates, such as scorpions and some eurypterids, the pedipalps are modified into large claws.’
      • ‘For starters, we were unable to resist the crab claws with prawn meat stuffing - pricey at £5, but they sounded delicious.’
      • ‘Six large white and pink peeled crab claws were placed on the plate, basted with oil that made them shiny and enticing.’
      • ‘Add the crab claws and the remaining spring onions, stir well and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.’
      • ‘They look like scorpions without tail or claws, and they live from animals' droppings.’
      • ‘Please find attached two pictures that I took of a crab with four pincers on the one claw.’
      • ‘The shop also has a wide range of seafood including tiger prawns, mussels, sea bream and breaded crab claws.’
      • ‘Male fiddler crabs have one claw much larger than the other, which they use to signal to each other.’
      • ‘Before picking up a crab, we detached attached males by carefully pushing their claws off the females' terminal spines.’
      • ‘Season the lobster claws and sauté on both sides until warmed through, about three minutes.’
      pincer, nipper
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 A mechanical device resembling a claw, used for gripping or lifting.
      • ‘This he replaced with a mechanical claw plated with a non-tarnishing gold alloy.’
      • ‘They were picked up too, and brought into hangars by metal claws on strong wires.’
      • ‘He extended a hooked claw and jimmied the window open.’
      • ‘Mechanical diggers moved in with dinosaur-like claws, ripping away chunks of the six-storey building.’
      • ‘It took the huge mechanical claw of a giant bulldozer just 35 minutes to crush it to a pile of dust.’
      • ‘Somehow less alarming than that was was the deadly looking metal claw hanging from its left shoulder.’
      • ‘They resembled green humanoid lizards, except for the black bodysuits and mechanical claws.’

verb

  • 1[no object] Scratch or tear something with the claws or the fingernails:

    ‘the kitten was clawing at Lowell's trouser leg’
    [with object] ‘her hands clawed his shoulders’
    • ‘I kept on yelling, while scratching and clawing at something in my back.’
    • ‘They rolled around on the floor, angrily scratching and slapping and clawing at each other.’
    • ‘I recall a vivid childhood dream of being trapped in a tiny house with a werewolf clawing at the windows and doors.’
    • ‘He was holding onto the thick leg of an armchair, but tiny, scratching hands were clawing at him, forcing him to loosen his grip more and more gradually.’
    • ‘The woman had flung herself against the locked door, clawing at the wood with her fingernails.’
    • ‘However, they sometimes pass out or go into frenzies of tearing off their clothes and clawing at their exposed skin, until they receive medical attention by staff on duty.’
    • ‘They like to mind their own business and will only bother you when they're bored or at election time when they'll hover around the refrigerator clawing at your legs.’
    • ‘She reached up to claw out his eyes, and he caught her other wrist.’
    • ‘His fingers were clawing at my arms as he tried to get away.’
    • ‘He follows me around, cooing and clawing at me, begging for attention.’
    • ‘Say your cat is clawing your couch or your dog is chewing your leather shoe.’
    • ‘She pounced on the man's back, ripping and clawing away at him.’
    • ‘Hours after the quake rocked central and southern Italy, rescue teams were clawing at the concrete in the search for survivors.’
    • ‘Last time I was teaching them however, I was clawing at the door by about two o'clock hoping that someone would walk past so I could grab them and run away.’
    • ‘I'm thinking of starting a sweepstake on how long it'll be before the cats start clawing at them and bring one down.’
    • ‘She scratched and clawed at him but he forced her into a chair and tied her hands behind her back.’
    • ‘It's just that all the little things that I never used to worry about are now clawing at my mind, and my heart.’
    • ‘She became hysterical: screaming, clawing at her face, pulling at her hair.’
    • ‘His free hand scrabbled desperately around, and he began clawing at his attacker.’
    • ‘She should be clawing at him with her verbal jabs.’
    scratch, lacerate, tear, rake, rip, slash, scrape, graze, dig into
    maul, savage, mutilate
    scrabble at
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Clutch at something with the hands:
      ‘his fingers clawed at the air’
      • ‘In several places we each went sprawling, clawing at tufts of dead grass to stop from cartwheeling down the mountain.’
      • ‘I viciously clawed at his clothing, almost ripping his favorite shirt.’
      • ‘He slowly clawed at the rope, eventually getting him out.’
      • ‘She fell to her knees gasping for air, her hands clawing at her throat.’
      • ‘Her fingernails clawed at the rock, straining to keep hold against the vehement wind.’
      • ‘Every time I closed my eyes I saw that man clawing at his throat.’
      • ‘It was a pitiful thing to find fortunate, but at that point she would grab and claw at anything that could possibly brighten the atmosphere.’
      • ‘But I still have that feeling of suffocation, that my lungs are clawing at the air for a breath.’
      • ‘Gasping, clawing at the empty air, she sunk to the ground.’
      • ‘His fingers were clawing at my arms as he tried to get away.’
      • ‘He threw himself back in suffocating agony and began to claw desperately at his throat.’
      • ‘Beads of sweat formed on his brow, and he began clawing at his chest.’
      • ‘Searching, Alex frantically clawed at the strong arm that possessed her, looking for an escape amidst chaos.’
      • ‘Her arms were spread and arched behind her back, her fingers clawing at the air as if she were trying to slow herself down.’
      • ‘I make angry pain noises, clawing at her unyielding fingers in agony.’
      • ‘Every baby I would swaddle would end up busting out of his bundle and crying his damn little head off, limbs flailing and clawing at the air.’
      • ‘Tim started yelling about extra innings, waving the bat around and clawing at the charred beams above the furnace.’
      • ‘In the beginning there was darkness and fingers clawing at loose debris on the ground.’
      • ‘He would notice that I was not clawing at him as though I wanted to devour him, but I was instead waiting patiently for the other girls to get bored with him, so he would be free to marry me on the spot.’
      • ‘He shut his eyes, fingers clawing at the rock below him.’
      reach for, snatch at, make a grab for, catch at, claw at
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2claw one's way Make one's way with difficulty by hauling oneself forward with one's hands:
      ‘he clawed his way over a pile of bricks’
      figurative ‘she was determined to claw her way out of poverty and find fame’
      • ‘Not wanting to go down without a fight, he continued to claw his way forward, continually hoping that he was heading the right direction.’
      • ‘He has a number of technical limitations, but he makes up for it by scrapping and clawing his way forward.’
      • ‘This comes from a man who is still young enough to claw his way up the corporate ladder.’
      • ‘It is a club which again and again has had to fight hard for its achievements, clawing its way up the league table only to slip down and have to begin the hard climb once more.’
      • ‘So I crawled, dragging myself over the ground, clawing my way forward because I couldn't bring myself to give up.’
    3. 1.3claw something away[with object] Try desperately to move or remove something with the hands:
      ‘rescuers clawed away rubble with their bare hands’
      • ‘Robinson was moving right across his goalline but stretched back and clawed the ball away.’
      • ‘It was like pulling off a giant plaster, each hair being slowly ripped from my body, no matter how quickly she clawed the strip away to lessen the sting.’
      • ‘But he acrobatically clawed the shot away only for the rebound to be slapped over the line.’
      • ‘Now, there was only the rock, the pick, and the pain of mutilated fingers forced to claw the rock away when the pick became too heavy to lift.’
      • ‘How could I when you were practically clawing my hand away every time I tried to steal a bite?’
    4. 1.4Scottish [with object] Scratch (a part of one's body) gently so as to relieve itching.
  • 2Nautical
    [no object] (of a sailing ship) beat to windward:

    ‘the ability to claw off a lee shore’

Phrases

  • get one's claws into

    • informal Enter into a possessive relationship with:

      ‘she's already got her claws into the handyman’
      • ‘Why on earth does it matter which female manages to get her claws into him?’
      • ‘She's got her claws into guys on the sub-committee, so whatever story I come up with has to sound close to what we're really doing.’
      • ‘For years the supermarket giants have been looking to get their claws into the pharmacy market as they have slowly picked off the rest of the High Street.’
      • ‘Girl, if you don't get your claws into him soon, someone else will.’
      • ‘How do you manage to get your claws into all the good ones?’
      • ‘Once she's got her claws into a man he's usually putty in her hands.’
      • ‘That's Sam out there, and she's got her claws into him.’
      • ‘Yeah, and don't think you're getting your claws into my man either.’
      • ‘Most of the girls in the class looked as if they planned to get their claws into him already.’
      • ‘There's no point in telling a jaded, modern reader a story about something that happened 1,600 years ago unless you can give them enough detail so that the reader can get their claws into it and feel it and smell it and taste it.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • claw something back

    • 1Regain a lost advantage or position laboriously and gradually:

      ‘a hostile majority were committed to clawing back power from the president’
      • ‘Within three minutes he had clawed another point back in a fine individual move.’
      • ‘During his time as editor, it consistently won its ratings battle, clawing back ground which had been lost to its great rival over a long period.’
      • ‘Point by point they clawed back the deficit and at last drew level with two minutes to go.’
      • ‘However the Wildcats gradually clawed it back and, in the end, it was the superior experience and craft of the Wildcats girls that proved to be the vital difference.’
      • ‘We owed £30,000 to the record company for years, but we've finally clawed it back.’
      retrieve, get back, win back, take back, recoup, reclaim, repossess, recapture, retake, redeem
      View synonyms
    • 2(of a government) recover money paid out in the form of an allowance or benefit, typically by taxation:

      ‘the government is trying to claw back the pay rises extracted by workers since deregulation of food prices’
      • ‘The silence from high-street tills could prove deafening as that cash is clawed back.’
      • ‘Tax cuts can be clawed back, but spending can't so easily.’
      • ‘But again this will be clawed back sharply for all but the lowest earners.’
      • ‘Councillors are now demanding to know why the massive overpayments of housing and council tax benefits have occurred and why only a third of the money has been clawed back by the council.’
      • ‘The government had promised the lump sum would never push an individual into a higher tax bracket, which could result in 40% of the payment being clawed back.’

Origin

Old English clawu (noun), clawian (verb), of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch klauw and German Klaue.

Pronunciation

claw

/klɔː/