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whittle at something

to cut or carve at something. He just sat there, whittling at a chunk of wood. I am not carving anything, I am just whittling at some wood.
See also: whittle

whittle someone down to size

Fig. to reduce someone's ego; to cause someone to have better, more respectful behavior. (Fig. on whittle something down (to size).) After a few days at camp, the counselors had whittled young Walter down to size. It took some doing, but they whittled him down to size.
See also: down, size, whittle

whittle something away

to cut or carve something away. The carver whittled the wood away until only a small figure was left. He whittled away the wood.
See also: away, 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 something out of something

to carve something out of something. The young man whittled a small boat out of wood. Can you whittle an elephant out of this chunk of wood?
See also: of, out, 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 away

1. To undermine, reduce, or weaken something by small increments until completely gone or useless: The long climb up the mountain whittled away his strength. We whittled their lead away with a series of small gains.
2. To weaken or be gradually reduced by small increments: My courage whittled away with each step forward I took.
3. To eliminate something by whittling it: The carpenter whittled the excess wood away. The sculptor whittled away the clay until a perfect form emerged.
4. To whittle continuously: They whittled away until they had finished carving their sticks into spoons.
See also: away, 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


mod. alcohol intoxicated; filled with liquor. (see also cut.) Fred’s whittled again and shouldn’t drive home.
See also: whittle
References in periodicals archive ?
Commenting on the sale, Dennis Whittler, vice president and chief financial officer, said, "We believe that this transaction is good for all those concerned: our Mexican employees, all of whom have been offered continued employment with the new company; GET, who is expanding into a North American manufacturing capability with a fully functional manufacturing facility; and Proxima, as the sale allows us to complete the manufacture of one of our projector lines while smoothly transitioning out of our Mexican manufacturing operation.
Progress to two sets of the Waist Whittler, stretch and repeat.
Regarding the quarter's operating results, Dennis Whittler, vice president and chief financial officer, stated: ''As disclosed in previous announcements and public filings by the company, fourth-quarter revenues declined and an operating loss was incurred due to declining prices, reduced demand and significantly lower gross margins for VGA products as the market rapidly transitioned to SVGA projectors.
Commenting on the inventory charge, Dennis Whittler, vice president and chief financial officer, stated: "Although we had anticipated the market's transition to higher resolution SVGA projectors, it occurred faster than we expected.
Dennis Whittler, Proxima's chief financial officer, stated: ``We have made the very difficult decision to cancel both our fiscal second quarter analysts' conference call and an important analyst conference at the end of the month due to the increased exposure to frivolous lawsuits that would result if a California initiative, known as Proposition 211, passes on Nov.
WAIST WHITTLERS The hourglass figure is 'the' elusive swimwear shape.
Dave will be joined by bushcraft experts, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, willow weavers, whittlers, charcoal makers, organic foodies, circus acts and wildlife fans, who bring along birds of prey.
Three of the most common traditional styles, Trappers, Stockmans and Whittlers, are widely available as well as Peanuts, Barlows, Folding Hunters, Scout Knives and Sowbellies.
From Fiddleback Whittlers to Congress and Canoe designs, this style has grabbed the boomers who want to listen to these knives "walk and talk" and remember their youth.
At least that is what this group of wannabe waist whittlers - including me - are hoping.
Such fellows, who have the financial backing so as to never have to work to put food on the family table, or meet a mortgage payment, are perfectly delighted to have you and me become tour guides, firewood cutters, whittlers and T-shirt merchants to the tourist trade.