nibble away at

nibble

[nib-uhl]
verb (used without object), nibbled, nibbling.
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.
verb (used with object), nibbled, nibbling.
4.
to bite off small bits of (something).
5.
to eat (food) by biting off small pieces.
6.
to bite in small bits: He nibbled each morsel with great deliberation.
noun
7.
a small morsel or bit: Each nibble was eaten with the air of an epicure.
8.
an act or instance of nibbling.
9.
a response by a fish to bait on a fishing line.
10.
any preliminary positive response or reaction.
Idioms
11.
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.

Origin:
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

unnibbled, adjective


7. tidbit, bite, taste, crumb.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
nibble (ˈnɪbəl)
 
vb (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 bites: to nibble at a cake
3.  to bite (at) gently or caressingly
4.  (intr) to make petty criticisms
5.  (intr) to consider tentatively or cautiously: to nibble at an idea
 
n
6.  a small mouthful
7.  an instance or the act of nibbling
8.  informal (plural) small items of food, esp savouries, usually served with drinks
 
[C15: related to Low German nibbelen. Compare nib, neb]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

nibble
"to bite gently," c.1500, perhaps from Low Ger. nibbeln "to nibble, gnaw," related to M.L.G. nibbelen, M.Du. knibbelen "to gnaw," source of Du. knibbelen "to cavail, squabble." The noun is first attested 1658.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Synonyms
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