fritter away


1 [frit-er]
verb (used with object)
to squander or disperse piecemeal; waste little by little (usually followed by away ): to fritter away one's money; to fritter away an afternoon.
to break or tear into small pieces or shreds.
verb (used without object)
to dwindle, shrink, degenerate, etc. (often followed by away ): to watch one's fortune fritter away.
to separate or break into fragments: a plastic material having a tendency to fritter.
a small piece, fragment, or shred.

1720–30; earlier fitter, derivative of fit (Old English fitt) a part

fritterer, noun
unfrittered, adjective

1. dissipate, frivol away, idle away. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
fritter1 (ˈfrɪtə)
1.  (usually foll by away) to waste or squander: to fritter away time
2.  to break or tear into small pieces; shred
3.  a small piece; shred
[C18: probably from obsolete fitter to break into small pieces, ultimately from Old English fitt a piece]

fritter2 (ˈfrɪtə)
a piece of food, such as apple or clam, that is dipped in batter and fried in deep fat
[C14: from Old French friture, from Latin frictus fried, roasted, from frīgere to fry, parch]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"whittle away," 1728, from fritters "fragment or shred," possibly alteration of 16c. fitters "fragments or pieces," perhaps ultimately from O.Fr. fraiture "a breaking," from L. fractura.

"fried batter," 1381, from O.Fr. friture "something fried," from L.L. frictura "a frying."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

fritter away

Squander or waste little by little; wear down gradually. For example, She frittered away her salary on odds and ends and saved nothing. This expression was first recorded in Alexander Pope's Dunciad (1728): "How prologues into prefaces decay, And these to notes are fritter'd quite away."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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