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verb (used without object), nib·bled, nib·bling.
  1. to bite off small bits.
  2. to eat or chew in small bites: Give him a graham cracker to nibble on.
  3. 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.
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verb (used with object), nib·bled, nib·bling.
  1. to bite off small bits of (something).
  2. to eat (food) by biting off small pieces.
  3. to bite in small bits: He nibbled each morsel with great deliberation.
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  1. a small morsel or bit: Each nibble was eaten with the air of an epicure.
  2. an act or instance of nibbling.
  3. a response by a fish to bait on a fishing line.
  4. any preliminary positive response or reaction.
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  1. 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.
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Origin of nibble

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 formsun·nib·bled, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for nibble


verb (when intr, often foll by at)
  1. (esp of animals, such as mice) to take small repeated bites (of)
  2. to take dainty or tentative bitesto nibble at a cake
  3. to bite (at) gently or caressingly
  4. (intr) to make petty criticisms
  5. (intr) to consider tentatively or cautiouslyto nibble at an idea
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  1. a small mouthful
  2. an instance or the act of nibbling
  3. (plural) informal small items of food, esp savouries, usually served with drinks
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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

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.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper