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1. To break off fragments of something. We won't be able to move this huge rock until we chip away at it and make it smaller.
2. To come off of something in small pieces. The paint is so old that it has completely chipped away from this side of the house.
3. To complete small, incremental portions of a task. Try not to get too overwhelmed about cleaning the house and just chip away at it one room at a time.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
chip something away (from something)
to break off tiny pieces of something. Many years of heavy use chipped the marble steps away. Someone chipped away little bits of the marble from that step.
[for something] to break off or break away in small chips. The edges of the marble step chipped away over the years. Some of the stone figures had chipped away so badly that we couldn't see what they were.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. To fall or break off in small pieces: The old paint chipped away from the frame when we opened the window.
2. To break off small pieces of something: Don't chip away the paint with a screwdriver. I chipped the enamel away with a scraper.
3. chip away at To reduce or make progress on something incrementally: We chipped away at the problem until it was solved. I chipped away at the dried cement on the tiles.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.