Definitions

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

  • n. A well-developed sinew or muscle.
  • n. Muscular power or strength. Often used in the plural.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Bond; servile.
  • n. A bondman; a slave.
  • n. Muscle or sinew.
  • n. A good quality or habit; virtue.
  • n. An attractive physical attribute, especially muscle; mental or moral vigour.
  • v. Instruct in morals or values; chastise.
  • v. To oppress; enslave.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Manner; custom; habit; form of behavior; qualities of mind; disposition; specifically, good qualities; virtues.
  • n. Muscle or strength; nerve; brawn; sinew.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Bond; servile.
  • To oppress; enslave.
  • n. A bondman; a slave.
  • n. Custom; habit; manner; usually in the plural, customs; habits; manners; morals; qualities; moral traits; conditions.
  • n. A muscle; a sinew: used generally in the plural.
  • n. A cucking-stool; perhaps, also, a form of pillory.
  • n. An old or provincial or artificial preterit of thaw.

Etymologies

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

Middle English, individual habit, virtue, strength (sense influenced by sinew), from Old English thēaw, a custom, habit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English thew, theow, from Old English þēow, þēo ("servant, slave"), from Proto-Germanic *þewaz, *þegwaz (“servant”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekwos (“runner”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekw- (“to run, flow”). Cognate with Old High German diu ("servant"), Gothic  (þius, "bondman, slave, servant"), Dutch dienen ("to serve"), German dienen ("to serve"), Old English þegn ("servant, minister, vassal"). See thegn, thane.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English thew, from Old English þēow ("servile, not free, bond"), from Proto-Germanic *þewaz, *þegwaz (“subject, servile”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekwos (“runner”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekw- (“to run, flow”). Cognate with Old High German dio ("unfree").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English thewen, from Old English þēowan, þȳwan ("to press, impress, force, press on, urge on, drive, press with a weapon, thrust, pierce, stab, threaten, rebuke, subjugate, crush, push, oppress, check"), from Proto-Germanic *þewjanan (“to enslave, oppress”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekw- (“to run, flow”). Cognate with Middle Dutch douwen, Middle Low German duwen, Middle High German diuhen, dūhen, diuwen ("to oppress").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English thew, theaw (often in plural thewes), from Old English þēaw ("usage, custom, general practise of a community, mode of conduct, manner, practise, way, behaviour"), from Proto-Germanic *þawwaz (“custom, habit”), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)tāu-, *(s)te- (“to stand, place”). Cognate with Old Frisian thāw, Old Saxon thau ("custom"), Old High German *gathau, kathau ("discipline").

Examples

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  •                                       … for Romans now

    Have thews and limbs like to their ancestors…

    – Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act I, scene iii

    June 8, 2015

  • "Greek schemers seek egress en ténèbres, then enter the melee — the welter where berserk tempers seethe whenever men's mettle, then men's fettle, gets tested; there, the Greek berserkers sever men's thews, then shred men's flesh."

    Eunoia by Christian Bök (upgraded edition), p 44

    May 21, 2010

  • Your favorite list? Gosh!

    *feels very honored*

    *also provides a link*

    June 30, 2008

  • ...the delicate, shy, pale Flora

    (who strains and frets under sleek black thew)...

    - Peter Reading, Dark Continent, from Diplopic, 1983

    June 29, 2008