"sharp, hooked, horny end of the limb of a mammal, bird, reptile, etc.," Old English clawu, earlier clea, "claw, talon, iron hook," from Proto-Germanic *klawo (source also of Old Frisian klawe "claw, hoe," Middle Dutch klouwe, Dutch klauw, Old High German klawa, German Klaue "claw").
Claw-foot in reference to carved furniture legs is from 1823; claw-and-ball attested from 1893. Claw-hammer, one having one end divided into two claws, is attested from 1769.
Old English clawian "to scratch, claw," from the same root as claw (n.). Related: Clawed; clawing. Compare Dutch klaauwen, Old High German klawan, German klauen.
To claw back "regain by great effort" is from 1953; as a noun, an act of this, from 1969. Earlier clawback (n.) meant "one who fawns on another, a sycophant" (1540s), from phrase claw the back "flatter, curry favor" (late 14c.); compare the more recent expression scratch (someone's) back in a similar sense.
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