whittle down


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whittle down

To reduce the size or scope of something incrementally by removing small parts. The phrase alludes to whittling wood, in which small bits are carved off with a knife. A noun or pronoun can be used between "whittle" and "down." We're not going to make any major cuts, but we do need to whittle down the budget by reducing costs here and there. I think you need to whittle down your thesis to a more concise point. Right now it's a little too broad. Right now your speech is just a little long. Do you think you can whittle it down a bit?
See also: down, whittle

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 down

v.
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.
Now, with this plan and our customers' help, we're going to whittle down the remaining 10 percent.
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.