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gnaw (at) (someone's) vitals

To greatly or deeply trouble someone; to affect in someone an intense feeling of anguish or despair. Seeing the suffering of so many people overseas gnawed at her vitals day and night, so she decided to join the Red Cross so she could finally help in some way.
See also: gnaw

gnaw (away) at someone

Fig. to worry someone; to create constant anxiety in someone. The thought of catching some horrible disease gnawed away at her. A lot of guilt gnawed at him day and night.
See also: gnaw

gnaw (away) at someone or something

Lit. to chew at someone or something. I hear a mouse gnawing away at the wall. The mosquitoes are gnawing at me something awful.
See also: gnaw

gnaw on something

to chew on something. (Usually said of an animal.) The puppy has been gnawing on my slippers! This slipper has been gnawed on!
See also: gnaw

gnaw at

1. To bite or chew on something, removing small pieces of it a bit at a time: The mice gnawed at the corner of the box until they had made a small hole in it.
2. To cause someone or something to have or feel persistent discomfort, anxiety, or guilt: His harsh criticism gnawed at me the rest of the day. Hunger was gnawing at my stomach.
See also: gnaw

gnaw away

1. To bite or chew something a bit at a time: The fox gnawed the tough meat away first, and then bit into the bone.
2. To bite or chew on something repeatedly in order to grind it down or to remove small pieces from it a bit at a time: The kids gnawed away at the cobs of fresh corn. That dog will gnaw away at that bone until it gets to the marrow inside.
3. To cause someone or something to have or feel persistent discomfort, anxiety, or guilt: Dark thoughts gnawed away at my mind.
See also: away, gnaw

gnaw on

1. To bite or chew on something, either without eating it or removing small pieces of it a bit at a time: The dog has been gnawing on that bone for days.
2. To cause someone or something to have or feel persistent discomfort, anxiety, or guilt: Unpleasant dreams gnawed on me all night and I couldn't sleep.
See also: gnaw
References in classic literature ?
In one of these a staple and chain with a quantity of gnawed bones showed where the animal had been confined.
It began to come home to her that she preferred the old Arthur, of the scowl and the gnawed lip.
Dense borders of mango-trees protected its margin, and the ebb-tide disclosed to view their thick roots, chafed and gnawed by the teeth of the Indian Ocean.
One can distinguish on its ruins three sorts of lesions, all three of which cut into it at different depths; first, time, which has insensibly notched its surface here and there, and gnawed it everywhere; next, political and religious revolution, which, blind and wrathful by nature, have flung themselves tumultuously upon it, torn its rich garment of carving and sculpture, burst its rose windows, broken its necklace of arabesques and tiny figures, torn out its statues, sometimes because of their mitres, sometimes because of their crowns; lastly, fashions, even more grotesque and foolish, which, since the anarchical and splendid deviations of the Renaissance, have followed each other in the necessary decadence of architecture.
It is the old oak crowning itself, and which, to heap the measure full, is stung, bitten, and gnawed by caterpillars.
Do you suppose that the man, into whose soul the irons of bitterness have gnawed and eaten their way, is likely to come out with a smirk and look around him for the opportunity of doing good?
The Mouse, passing that way, and seeing that his benefactor was helpless, gnawed off his tail.
The bees must have worked at very nearly the same rate on the opposite sides of the ridge of vermilion wax, as they circularly gnawed away and deepened the basins on both sides, in order to have succeeded in thus leaving flat plates between the basins, by stopping work along the intermediate planes or planes of intersection.
Considering how flexible thin wax is, I do not see that there is any difficulty in the bees, whilst at work on the two sides of a strip of wax, perceiving when they have gnawed the wax away to the proper thinness, and then stopping their work.
But the rough wall of wax has in every case to be finished off, by being largely gnawed away on both sides.
There were scores of pitch pines around my house, from one to four inches in diameter, which had been gnawed by mice the previous winter -- a Norwegian winter for them, for the snow lay long and deep, and they were obliged to mix a large proportion of pine bark with their other diet.
Tarzan tossed the second hyena across the crater, while the first gnawed at the rotting face of its master; but this did not suit the ape-man.
SHE is the 90-year-old tortoise whose legs were gnawed off by a rat while she was hibernating.
Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman said: "Certain parts of Mrs Veal's body were missing and had effectively been gnawed and eaten away by the animals.
MIDLAND-based bargain store chain Poundland resealed packets of sweets and biscuits which had been gnawed by mice and put them back on the shelves, a court heard.