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eat away at

Destroy gradually, erode; also, worry one constantly. For example, The sea has been eating away at the outer banks for years, or The fact that he failed the test is eating away at him. [Early 1800s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.