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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Example sentences
Come morning, watching the sun rise over the whittled canyon was as mesmerizing
  as watching waves roll in.
Many of the cuts came from voluntary reductions in pay and benefits as the
  economy whittled away at campus budgets.
But as developers make their way around the archipelago, shark habitat will
  continue to be whittled away.
The weather that carved such forms whittled away at us too.
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