whittle down

whittle

[hwit-l, wit-l]
verb (used with object), whittled, whittling.
1.
to cut, trim, or shape (a stick, piece of wood, etc.) by carving off bits with a knife.
2.
to form by whittling: to whittle a figure.
3.
to cut off (a bit).
4.
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.
verb (used without object), whittled, whittling.
5.
to whittle wood or the like with a knife, as in shaping something or as a mere aimless diversion: to spend an afternoon whittling.
6.
to tire oneself or another by worrying or fussing.
noun
7.
British Dialect. a knife, especially a large one, as a carving knife or a butcher knife.

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

whittler, noun
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
whittle (ˈwɪtəl)
 
vb
1.  to cut or shave strips or pieces from (wood, a stick, etc), esp with a knife
2.  (tr) to make or shape by paring or shaving
3.  (tr; often foll by away, down, off, etc) to reduce, destroy, or wear away gradually
4.  dialect (Northern English) (intr) to complain or worry about something continually
 
n
5.  dialect (Brit) a knife, esp a large one
 
[C16: variant of C15 thwittle large knife, from Old English thwitel, from thwītan to cut; related to Old Norse thveitr cut, thveita to beat]
 
'whittler
 
n

Whittle (ˈwɪtəl)
 
n
Sir Frank. 1907--96, English engineer, who invented the jet engine for aircraft; flew first British jet aircraft (1941)

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

whittle
1550s, "to cut thin shavings from (something) with a knife," from M.E. whittel "a knife" (c1400), variant of thwittle (late 14c.), from O.E. þwitan "to cut," from P.Gmc. *thwitanan (cf. O.N. þveita "to hew"). Figurative sense is attested from 1746. Related: Whittled; whittling.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
Whittle   (wĭt'l)  Pronunciation Key 
British aeronautical engineer and inventor who developed the first aircraft engine powered by jet propulsion in 1937.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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