[ hwit-ling, wit- ]
/ ˈʰwɪt lɪŋ, ˈwɪt- /


the act of a person who whittles.
Often whittlings. a bit or chip whittled off.

Nearby words

  1. whittier, john greenleaf,
  2. whittington,
  3. whittington, richard,
  4. whittle,
  5. whittle, sir frank,
  6. whittlings,
  7. whittret,
  8. whittuesday,
  9. whitworth,
  10. whitworth screw thread

Origin of whittling

First recorded in 1605–15; whittle + -ing1


[ hwit-l, wit-l ]
/ ˈʰwɪt l, ˈwɪt l /

verb (used with object), whit·tled, whit·tling.

verb (used without object), whit·tled, whit·tling.

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

1375–1425; late Middle English (noun), dialectal variant of thwitel knife, Old English thwīt(an) to cut + -el -le

Related formswhit·tler, noun

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for whittling

British Dictionary definitions for whittling


/ (ˈwɪtəl) /


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
Derived Formswhittler, noun

Word Origin for whittle

C16: variant of C15 thwittle large knife, from Old English thwitel, from thwītan to cut; related to Old Norse thveitr cut, thveita to beat


/ (ˈwɪtəl) /


Sir Frank. 1907–96, English engineer, who invented the jet engine for aircraft; flew first British jet aircraft (1941)
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 whittling



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for whittling


[ wĭtl ]
Sir Frank 1907-1996

British aeronautical engineer and inventor who developed the first aircraft engine powered by jet propulsion in 1937.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.