May 13, 2016
- hew (verb)
- What does it mean?
- 1 : to chop down2 : to make or shape by cutting with an ax3 : to stick close to : adhere
- How do you use it?
- He will hew to the party line, even if he disagrees with it.
- Are you a word wiz?
What language does "hew" come from?"Hew" comes almost directly from the Old English verb "haewan," which means "to cut with hard or rough blows." Nowadays, however, we use the verb "hew" very often to refer to sticking to something, rather than cutting it apart. How did that happen? The newer "to stick close to" sense, which we use in our example sentence above, is actually an extension of the "make or shape by cutting" sense. When you are making something using an axe or another large cutting instrument, you have to make sure that your first cuts are as close to the finished shape as you can get them--you don't have the right tools to chisel finely. This idea of cutting as close to the line as possible was extended to staying as close to a line as possible. The extended sense of "hew" has been in use for at least 100 years.