From King Dictionary of Contemporary English
Related topics: Crafts
whittlewhit‧tle /ˈwɪtl/ verb 1 REDUCE (also whittle down) [transitive] to gradually make something smaller by taking parts away We need to whittle down the list of guests for the party.2 TICCUT[intransitive, transitive] to cut a piece of wood into a particular shape by cutting off small pieces with a knifecarve whittle away
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Examples from the Corpus
whittleHe took out his penknife and began whittling a piece of wood.The village was, as she had thought, a dump, where time was whittled away in some vintage manner.Visitors can even whittle away time at the airport's 143 shops and 23 eateries while awaiting flights.The list of candidates has been whittled down from 61 to 12.Many of the recent suggestions for change have sought to whittle down that authority.This is good because it allows you to whittle down those superior numbers.That whittled the field down from the white pages of the Paris phone book.Red and Roy whittle the lead back down to nine.
Origin whittle (1500-1600) whittle large knife ((15-19 centuries)), from thwittle ((14-19 centuries)), from thwite to whittle ((11-19 centuries)), from Old English thwitan