chip (away) at (something)

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chip (away) at (something)

1. Literally, to break off fragments of something. We won't be able to move this huge rock until we chip at it and make it smaller.
2. By extension, to complete small, incremental portions of a task. I knew I wouldn't be able to write 50 pages in one night, so I've been chipping away at this paper for a few weeks.
See also: chip
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

chip (away) at something

to break off tiny pieces of something little by little. The mason chipped away at the bricks. He chipped at the block of marble gently.
See also: chip
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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References in periodicals archive ?
A NEW LAW IN UTAH, approved in March, offers one of the latest examples of the anti-abortion effort to limit access to family planning services and thus chip away at a woman's right to choose.
The bipartisan measure, the latest effort to chip away at the embargo, comes as President Bush prepares to make it harder for Cuban Americans to travel to the communist-run nation and send money to relatives there.
For Doing, 1998, for instance, she asked three masons to chip away at three blocks of marble until the stone was reduced to dust.
But it wasn't long before the competition started to chip away at segments where the newly efficient GM was underrepresented, or absent.
Life might not be fair, Hatch asserted, but to ignore that unfairness would be to "chip away at the American dream."
"Shifting can chip away at our sense of self, at a sense of wholeness and centeredness, leaving us emotionally, physically and spiritually depleted," Kumea says.
I am a 65-year-old Catholic who has watched society and government chip away at what I was led to believe was the truth--abortion is wrong, same-sex marriage is wrong--etc.
Someone could find him, he could move the boulder with his climbing gear, he could chip away at the rock, or he could cut off his right forearm with a pocketknife.
When the sister of a murdered informant (Eva Marie Saint) and a local labor priest (Karl Malden) begin to chip away at Terry's dormant conscience, the small-time hood begins to question the things he and his bosses are doing.
Intuit (Japan) and other Japanese companies are using MBOs to give themselves a semblance of independence; Xavel is pulling in revenue of $1 million a month selling high-quality, brand-name clothing, perfume and accessories to people shopping via their cellphones; IP telephony begins to chip away at NTT's 100-year empire; and Sony tries to rev up the lackluster Aiwa brand.
Even better, they'll come in handy when the temptation to doubt yourself about height (or anything else) begins to chip away at that positive attitude you're developing.
Does Bush's deal with the Salvation Army shed light on a White House plan to chip away at gay fights?
The 21st century enterprise pays some high-tech attention to thwarting data thieves--mainly those who would chip away at the corporate firewall from the outside.
Why would he try to chip away at the DMZ of church-state relations even before he knows his way around the federal government and has assumed his overwhelming duties?
But component shortages in the mobile phone division could chip away at future growth.