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nibble

[nib-uh l] /ˈnɪb əl/
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 of nibble
late Middle English
1425-1475
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 forms
unnibbled, adjective
Synonyms
7. tidbit, bite, taste, crumb.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for nibbling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Soon it took to grass and clover, and then to nibbling sweet apples and early pears.

    Riverby John Burroughs
  • At last the Rougons were nibbling at the pleasures of the wealthy!

  • They seem to be nibbling at the flowers, and then flying away something like bees gathering honey.

    The Cuckoo Clock Mrs. Molesworth
  • All night long they travel, nibbling at their hard corn-bread.

  • Old Spot has got into the front yard; there she is nibbling at that rose bush under the window.

    Little Wolf M. A. Cornelius
  • "I must make this division equal," and he kept on nibbling at the cheese.

    Golden Moments Anonymous
  • Sheep were grazing on the plain, and nibbling the golden buds that the spring sunshine had brought to the broom.

  • Here we are rolling in riches while he may be nibbling at hunger's table.'

British Dictionary definitions for nibbling

nibble

/ˈnɪbəl/
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 bites: to nibble at a cake
3.
to bite (at) gently or caressingly
4.
(intransitive) to make petty criticisms
5.
(intransitive) to consider tentatively or cautiously: to nibble at an idea
noun
6.
a small mouthful
7.
an instance or the act of nibbling
8.
(pl) (informal) small items of food, esp savouries, usually served with drinks
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
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Word Origin and History for nibbling

nibble

v.

"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.

n.

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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