c. 1300, paue, "hand or foot of an animal which has nails or claws" (distinguished from a hoof), from Old French powe, poue, poe "paw, fist," a word of uncertain origin. OED points to Germanic cognates and suggests a Frankish origin for the French word. Barnhart says evidence points to the Germanic word being borrowed from a Gallo-Roman root form *pauta (source also of Provençal pauta, Catalan pota). Century Dictionary says the modern Welsh and Breton words are from English and French. Compare patten. In reference to the human hand, especially if large or coarse, c. 1600.
c. 1600, "use the hands roughly, handle clumsily;" also "draw the forefoot along the ground, scrape with the forefoot," from paw (n.). Related: Pawed; pawing. Middle English had pawen "to touch or strike with the paw" (c. 1400).
updated on March 03, 2020