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[nib-uh l] /ˈnɪb əl/
verb (used without object), nibbled, nibbling.
to bite off small bits.
to eat or chew in small bites:
Give him a graham cracker to nibble on.
to bite, eat, or chew gently and in small amounts (usually followed by at):
She was so upset she could only nibble at her food.
verb (used with object), nibbled, nibbling.
to bite off small bits of (something).
to eat (food) by biting off small pieces.
to bite in small bits:
He nibbled each morsel with great deliberation.
a small morsel or bit:
Each nibble was eaten with the air of an epicure.
an act or instance of nibbling.
a response by a fish to bait on a fishing line.
any preliminary positive response or reaction.
nibble away at, to cause to decrease or diminish bit by bit:
Inflation was nibbling away at her savings. The rains nibbled at the loam.
Also, nibble at.
Origin of nibble
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English nebillen to peck away at, nibble, try, perhaps < Middle Low German nibbelen to pick with the beak; cf. nib, -le
Related forms
unnibbled, adjective
7. tidbit, bite, taste, crumb. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for nibble
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But she would not nibble the feast now; and closing "The Daisy Chain," begun to unpack her handbag.

    Eyebright Susan Coolidge
  • Crocodiles and alligators do not nibble at their prey, but bolt it as a snake does a frog.

    Four Young Explorers Oliver Optic
  • And Oh, there is no thrill half so rapturous to the barefooted boy as the thrill of a nibble!

    Gov. Bob. Taylor's Tales Robert L. Taylor
  • You made me drop my line just when I was going to have a nibble.

    Little Prudy Sophie May
  • In the fourth inning, the Giants began to nibble at his offerings.

    Baseball Joe, Home Run King Lester Chadwick
  • My luncheon on that occasion consisted of a nibble at a small, raw potato.

    A Yeoman's Letters P. T. Ross
  • Not even a rat is left to nibble matches, for the animals must be affected in the same way that humans are.

    The End of Time Wallace West
  • And he turned the mare to the side of the road and allowed her to nibble at the greensward.

    The Loyalist James Francis Barrett
British Dictionary definitions for nibble


verb when intr, often foll by at
(esp of animals, such as mice) to take small repeated bites (of)
to take dainty or tentative bites: to nibble at a cake
to bite (at) gently or caressingly
(intransitive) to make petty criticisms
(intransitive) to consider tentatively or cautiously: to nibble at an idea
a small mouthful
an instance or the act of nibbling
(pl) (informal) small items of food, esp savouries, usually served with drinks
Word Origin
C15: related to Low German nibbelen. Compare nib, neb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for nibble

"to bite gently," c.1500, perhaps from Low German nibbeln "to nibble, gnaw," related to Middle Low German nibbelen, Middle Dutch knibbelen "to gnaw," source of Dutch knibbelen "to cavail, squabble." Related: Nibbled; nibbling.


1650s, "act of nibbling," from nibble (v.). As "a small bite," from 1838.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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nibble in Technology

/nib'l/ (US "nybble", by analogy with "bite" -> "byte") Half a byte. Since a byte is nearly always eight bits, a nibble is nearly always four bits (and can therefore be represented by one hex digit).
Other size nibbles have existed, for example the BBC Microcomputer disk file system used eleven bit sector numbers which were described as one byte (eight bits) and a nibble (three bits).
Compare crumb, tayste, dynner; see also bit, nickle, deckle.
The spelling "nybble" is uncommon in Commonwealth Hackish as British orthography suggests the pronunciation /ni:'bl/.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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