Definition of shrew in US English:



  • 1A small insectivorous mammal resembling a mouse, with a long pointed snout and tiny eyes.

    Family Soricidae: many genera, in particular Sorex and Crocidura, and numerous species

    • ‘Foxes, rabbits, harvest mice, house mice, dormice, shrews, weasels, and voles all depend on the hedgerows as a place to breed, hunt or shelter.’
    • ‘Visitors to the Aquarium of the Lakes will be able to discover all about the secret world of otters, bats, water voles and shrews as part of Wildlife Activity Week which runs until Sunday, February 22.’
    • ‘The study found that while some species, including hedgehogs, voles, shrews, dormice and hares, are generally declining in rural areas, their populations are rising in towns, cities and suburbs.’
    • ‘The mammals were to remain small and individually insignificant - comparable to shrews, mice and rats of today - although doubtless very significant ecologically, for the 135 million years of the dinosaurs reign.’
    • ‘Suburban householders report large numbers of hedgehogs, voles, shrews, dormice and hares.’
    • ‘With their wings hidden away, they can race through burrows or scrub with the alacrity of shrews and mice.’
    • ‘The theriodonts included both carnivores and herbivores, and various lineages correlated to late Cenozoic wolves, weasels, otters, rodents, and shrews.’
    • ‘On March 6, we listed the Buena Vista Lake shrew, a tiny insect-eating mammal native to California's southern San Joaquin Valley, as endangered.’
    • ‘With the zoo's high densities of rodents (deer mice, white-footed mice, house mice, shrews, moles, and Norway rats), a relatively high density of rodent predators could be achieved.’
    • ‘There, in addition to star-nosed moles, he inevitably encounters shrews, voles, weasels, field mice, and the occasional snapping turtle.’
    • ‘One hundred eighty million years ago, a small, hairy animal resembling a shrew or a vole evolved a new way to care for her developing offspring.’
    • ‘Destroys wildflower meadows, home to great crested newts, voles, field mice, shrews and rabbits.’
    • ‘Some small mammals - various shrews, for example - possess a similar dental setup, with long, conical, forward-projecting teeth up front.’
    • ‘While bats are highly specialized for flight, they share anatomical characters with the Insectivora, the mammalian taxon that includes shrews and moles.’
    • ‘Several small mammals live in the park - genets, shrews, hedgehogs and mongooses.’
    • ‘Among mammals, my annual visitors now include a few common smoky shrews, short-tailed shrews, red-backed voles, and, last but certainly not least in numbers, deer mice.’
    • ‘From the largest elephant or hippo to the tiniest shrew, all specimens enter this small room, kept at a carefully controlled temperature of 26C and a humidity of 40 per cent.’
    • ‘Insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and butterflies are a major part of their summer diet which also includes mammals such as mice, voles, young squirrels and rabbits, and shrews.’
    • ‘But more important, the keen sense of smell of foxes, shrews, and coyotes means any meat left unguarded is fair game.’
    • ‘Some mammal teeth from the Paleocene of France show characters of both bats and insectivores (the group including the hedgehogs, shrews and moles of today).’
  • 2A bad-tempered or aggressively assertive woman.

    • ‘Now, with this Ann doll, you can start training those young girls at an early age to become bigoted shrews!’
    • ‘He was perhaps more in love with the study of philosophy than with his family - that his wife Xanthippe was shrew is a later tale.’
    • ‘Legend allotted the role of shrew to his wife Xanthippe.’
    • ‘Socrates was married, you know, and his wife, Xanthippe, was a shrew.’
    virago, dragon, termagant, vixen, cat, fishwife, witch, hellcat, she-devil, tartar, spitfire, hag, gorgon, harridan, fury, ogress, harpy
    View synonyms


Old English scrēawa, scrǣwa, of Germanic origin; related words in Germanic languages have senses such as ‘dwarf’, ‘devil’, or ‘fox’.