whittle down

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia.
Related to whittle down: whittle away, take it on the chin, cut some slack, catch you later, run an errand

whittle something down (to size)

 and whittle something down
to cut or diminish something to a more appropriate size or to the proper size. I whittled the peg down to size and it fit in the hole perfectly. You are going to have to whittle down expenses.
See also: down, whittle

whittle something down

also whittle something away
to gradually reduce or destroy something By halftime our team's lead had been whittled down to only two points. College is so expensive, after two years, my college fund has been whittled away to almost nothing.
Usage notes: also used in the form whittle away at something: Over the past year, we've whittled away at our debts.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of whittle (to shape a piece of wood by cutting strips or small pieces from it with a knife)
See also: down, whittle

whittle down

1. To reduce the size of some piece of wood by cutting small bits or paring shavings: I whittled down the pencil's tip to expose more lead. I bit nervously on my pencil until I had whittled it down to nothing.
2. To reduce something gradually, as if by whittling with a knife: The couple whittled down their debt by making small payments. We whittled the other team's lead down to one point with a series of small gains.
See also: down, whittle
References in periodicals archive ?
After a marathon cross-country tour that brings the three women to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami, Lisa will whittle down the list of 10 finalists starting Wednesday, July 30 through a series of dates, with her friends reacting live to the filmed meetings.
At a time when the United States and California are short of nurses, Antelope Valley Hospital has managed to whittle down the number of its unfilled nursing positions from 65 to about 10, officials said.
It was also supposed to whittle down the bureaucracy and save money by eliminating 834 jobs and $46 million in waste.
AMF filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday to whittle down some debt, but the company's perception is that bowling remains just as popular as it was in the 1950s.
VICA receives suggestions from the public and a list of prospective nominees is compiled for executives, educators and Los Angeles County Superior Court judges to whittle down.
The Republicans are convinced that sampling is nothing but a scheme by the Democrats to hike the number of minorities on the books in order to squeeze more funds for social programs, and whittle down the number of Republican seats in Congress and state legislatures.
Twenty-seven percent plan to whittle down their expenses and 13 percent weren't sure.
However, he plans to whittle down his exposure to stocks in his taxable accounts by selling a little at a time as his stocks recover.
We can begin to whittle down the multibillion-dollar costs of illiteracy that surface in welfare payments, crime, lost taxes and expenses for remedial education programs.