whittle down

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Related to whittled down: whittler, whittling away

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 ?
THE search for Carlow's anthem looks set for a rousing conclusion with entries now whittled down to just 12 songs.
When the caps are whittled down to nubs, cells cease dividing and soon die.
Leandro Ventura has set out to rescue one Mantuan, Lorenzo Leonbruno (14777-1537), from obscurity, a task made more difficult by the small number of his surviving works (here whittled down to nine traced paintings, two drawings, and some frescos in the Ducal Palace, S.
Hoopnotica helps get a little of that holiday magic back for adults, while also giving the gift of reduced stress, whittled down waists, improved balance and flexibility, greater core strength, increased energy and some added joy.
More than 350 entries were whittled down to just ten finalists, and while Kirkburton made the first cut, it unfortunately was not shortlisted for the final.
Britain's Karaoke starts at 8pm at the Carling Academy with the 20 best singers, whittled down from auditions during the day, competing to be crowned Birmingham's King and Queen of Karaoke.
Their 12-point lead over St Johnstone has been whittled down by one, with them needing to win their final match at Ross County tomorrow to be guaranteed promotion.
The Casino Advisory Panel, the independent advisory body to the Government, said a provisional short-list of Blackpool, Wembley, Cardiff, Glasgow, the Millennium Dome, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Sheffield had been whittled down from 27 applications to host the venue.
It is one of ten 10-minute monologues which will be whittled down to an eventual winner.
Entrants will be whittled down to six males and six females who then go to a public vote between June 8-19.
The 125 vocalists and instrumentalists who entered the competition in January had been whittled down to five age-group winners: Alissa-Mae Padilla (5-8); Taylor Donti (9-12); Kathryn Friedrich and Ashley Moniz (tie, 13-17); and Coffe'y Anderson (18 and up).
It's unclear whether the newfound planets were once gas giants that got whittled down to a solid core during such a migration.
The initial 12 teams in the league were whittled down to three over a four-month period with matches lasting an hour each.
The drawings were whittled down by Trump from six different schemes to a geometric pattern outlined with brass strips, but is still being refined.
Each year the editorial staff at Accounting Today draws up a broad list of candidates which is painstakingly whittled down to 100.