- to cut, trim, or shape (a stick, piece of wood, etc.) by carving off bits with a knife.
- to form by whittling: to whittle a figure.
- to cut off (a bit).
- to reduce the amount of, as if by whittling; pare down; take away by degrees (usually followed by down, away, etc.): to whittle down the company's overhead; to whittle away one's inheritance.
- to whittle wood or the like with a knife, as in shaping something or as a mere aimless diversion: to spend an afternoon whittling.
- to tire oneself or another by worrying or fussing.
- British Dialect. a knife, especially a large one, as a carving knife or a butcher knife.
Origin of whittle
Related Words for whittledtrim, shave, pare, erode, lessen, diminish, hew, consume, form, chip, shape, fashion, decrease, carve, model, mold, undermine, sculpt
Examples from the Web for whittled
Contemporary Examples of whittled
A list of 400 disagreements over the document has been whittled down to just two.CIA Torture Report ‘Days’ Away, Feinstein Says
December 2, 2014
With Thriller, we took 800 songs and whittled them down to nine.Quincy Jones Talks Chicago’s Mean Streets, Why Kanye West Is No Michael Jackson, and Bieber
September 25, 2014
By the time the House and Senate agreed to a farm bill last month, that was whittled down to $8.7 billion over 10 years.Paul Ryan: Still a Total Jerk
April 3, 2014
An array of whittled bamboo sticks, each four millimeters in diameter, makes up the two-room installation.The Royal Academy Wants You to Finish This Artwork
January 24, 2014
Two other players with plausible cases were whittled off the ballot.The Baseball Hall of Fame is a Mess
January 9, 2014
Historical Examples of whittled
She wanted a sail for that shingle craft I whittled out for her.Shavings
Joseph C. Lincoln
They are whittled round at one end and pointed at the other.
The upper end was whittled so as to make a convenient handle for the user.The Boy Settlers
"I just whittled out a kind of a clothespin163 man," he explained.Christmas
We were a pretty big section once, but Thurston's virus has whittled us down.Pandemic
Jesse Franklin Bone
- to cut or shave strips or pieces from (wood, a stick, etc), esp with a knife
- (tr) to make or shape by paring or shaving
- (tr; often foll by away, down, off, etc) to reduce, destroy, or wear away gradually
- Northern English dialect (intr) to complain or worry about something continually
- British dialect a knife, esp a large one
Word Origin for whittle
- Sir Frank. 1907–96, English engineer, who invented the jet engine for aircraft; flew first British jet aircraft (1941)
1550s, "to cut thin shavings from (something) with a knife," from Middle English whittel "a knife" (c1400), variant of thwittle (late 14c.), from Old English þwitan "to cut," from Proto-Germanic *thwitanan (cf. Old Norse þveita "to hew"). Figurative sense is attested from 1746. Related: Whittled; whittling.
- British aeronautical engineer and inventor who developed the first aircraft engine powered by jet propulsion in 1937.