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 ?
Former apartheid-era inmates of Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town, are again chipping away at the limestone to make the unusual gifts.
White respects the legend while chipping away at it over hundreds of minutely detailed pages.
At the same time, the City showed a much needed proactive approach to tenant retention, which should be formidable in chipping away at the tenant exodus from Manhattan.
With the helped of nothing more than pairs of fancy pliers attached to the ends of very long poles, they wer chipping away at the melted fuel rods and damaged control assembly, piece by radioactive piece.
With little or no chance of progress in Congress or the federal courts, SLDN and other groups opposed to the ban on gays in the military have adopted what Benecke describes as an "incremental" strategy, which amounts to chipping away at the most egregious violations.
O'Cleireacain and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone are working on the details of a commission that will prepare a legislative package to address all of the inequities, rather than chipping away at some of the more blatant problems one at a time.
High-energy radiation, for example, as well as impacts by solid grains of interstellar material, could be chipping away at cometary surfaces, while penetration by the charged particles of galactic cosmic rays could be having an effect farther in.
We have been chipping away at the old block for a few years.
But activists and gay and lesbian legal advocates have been gleefully chipping away at the remaining vestiges of the codified criminalization of same-gender sex.
Finally, says Silverstein, the marked slowdown in new construction will prove formidable in chipping away at the double-digit vacancy rates now plaguing the Midtown and Downtown office markets.