from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The foot of an animal, especially a quadruped, that has claws or nails.
  • n. Informal A human hand, especially a large clumsy one: "Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water” ( John Steinbeck).
  • transitive v. To strike with the paw or paws.
  • transitive v. To strike or scrape with a beating motion: The bull pawed the ground before charging.
  • transitive v. To handle clumsily, rudely, or with too much familiarity. See Synonyms at touch.
  • intransitive v. To scrape the ground with the forefeet: The horse pawed restlessly.
  • intransitive v. To handle someone or something clumsily, rudely, or with too much familiarity: Don't paw at everything you see.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Father; pa.
  • n. The soft foot of a mammal or other animal, generally a quadruped, that has claws or nails; comparable to a human hand or foot.
  • v. To go through something (such as a garbage can) with paws
  • v. To gently push on something with a paw.
  • v. To touch someone (with the hands) in a sexual way.
  • v. To clumsily dig through something.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The foot of a quadruped having claws, as the lion, dog, cat, etc.
  • n. The hand.
  • intransitive v. To draw the forefoot along the ground; to beat or scrape with the forefoot.
  • transitive v. To pass the paw over; to stroke or handle with the paws; hence, to handle fondly or rudely.
  • transitive v. To scrape or beat with the forefoot.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To draw the fore foot along the ground; scrape with the fore foot.
  • To scrape with the fore foot; strike with a drawing or scraping action of the fore foot.
  • To handle roughly or clumsily, as with paws.Johnson.
  • To fawn upon, as a spaniel upon his master.
  • To secure or stop the motion of (a capstan, windlass, or ratchet-wheel) with a pawl.
  • Improper; nasty; obscene.
  • n. The hand or foot of an animal which has nails or claws: distinguished from hoof: as, a monkey's paw; the paws of a cat, dog, rat, etc. In many animals the fore feet, and in some the hind feet, are prehensile, and serviceable as hands.
  • n. The human hand, especially when large or coarse, or when awkwardly used.
  • n. A trick.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. touch clumsily
  • n. the (prehensile) extremity of the superior limb
  • v. scrape with the paws
  • n. a clawed foot of an animal especially a quadruped


Middle English pawe, from Old French powe.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
The word probably has an origin in baby talk: see ‘pa’. (Wiktionary)
From the noun paw, meaning an animal's hand or foot. (Wiktionary)



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