chip (away) at (something)

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chip (away) at (something)

1. Literally, to break off fragments of something. We won't be able to move this huge rock until we chip at it and make it smaller.
2. By extension, to complete small, incremental portions of a task. I knew I wouldn't be able to write 50 pages in one night, so I've been chipping away at this paper for a few weeks.
See also: chip

chip (away) at something

to break off tiny pieces of something little by little. The mason chipped away at the bricks. He chipped at the block of marble gently.
See also: chip
References in periodicals archive ?
The Mets chipped away at the Dodgers' two-run deficit in the fifth inning when Edgardo Alfonzo led off with a double and scored on Mike Piazza's singled to right.
The Toreadors chipped away at their deficit and finally wrapped up the game on one of Gledhill's four blocks.
Scalabrine, who started fast but then faded under the duress of Duke defensive-stopper Shane Battier on Saturday, chipped away at UCSB from beginning to end, finishing with 21 points in 24 minutes on an efficient 9 of 15 from the field.
By applying the Bill of Rights - intended to bind the federal government only - to the states, federal courts have continually chipped away at the powers traditionally reserved to the states and the people.
Gibson's attorney chipped away at Officer Cynthia Neff's testimony that Gibson had recruited her to join a call-girl empire that catered to the rich and famous around the world.
With only a bit more than seven weeks remaining until the start of training camp, the Kings chipped away at their long list of unsigned players Thursday, getting signatures from winger Steve McKenna and defenseman Frantisek Kaberle.