1. Originally, a brawling, turbulent, vexatious person of either sex, but now restricted in use to females; a brawler; a scold. A man . . . Grudgeth that shrews E, bad men have prosperity, or else that good men have adversity. (Chaucer) A man had got a shrew to his wife, and there could be no quiet in the house for her. (L’Estrange)
2. AS. Screawa; so called because supposed to be venomous.
(Science: zoology) Any small insectivore of the genus sorex and several allied genera of the family Sorecidae. In form and colour they resemble mice, but they have a longer and more pointed nose. Some of them are the smallest of all mammals.
The common European species are the house shrew (Crocidura araneus), and the erd shrew (sorex vulgaris) (see under Erd). In the united states several species of Sorex and Blarina are common, as the broadnosed shrew (S. Platyrhinus), Cooper’s shrew (S. Cooperi), and the short-tailed, or mole, shrew (Blarina brevicauda). Th American water, or marsh, shrew (Neosorex palustris), with fringed feet, is less common. The common European water shrews are Crossopus fodiens, and the oared shrew (see under Oared). Earth shrew, any shrewlike burrowing animal of the family Centetidae, as the tendrac. Elephant shrew, jumping shrew, Mole shrew. See Elephant, Jumping, etc. Musk shrew. See desman. River shrew, an aquatic west african insectivore (Potamogale velox) resembling a weasel in form and size, but hav
ing a large flattened and crested tail adapted for rapid swimming. It feeds on fishes. Shrew mole, a common large North American mole (Scalops aquaticus). Its fine, soft fur is gray with iridescent purple tints.