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1. To create a cavity, gap, or space within something. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hollow" and "out." The criminals hollowed out a tree and stashed the stolen cash inside. We need to hollow the pumpkin out before we can carve a face on it.
2. To form something by making a hollow space (within something else). A noun or pronoun can be used between "hollow" and "out." The bird hollows out a nest in the side of the cliff. My brother and I hollowed a space out in the log where we could keep our various treasures and discoveries.
3. To cause someone to feel devoid of purpose, happiness, contentment, ebullience, etc. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hollow" and "out." I had always said I would never get a job in some heartless corporate machine that hollows out its employees into passionless husks. My divorce really hollowed me out for a while, leaving me wondering what the point of it all really was.
4. To weaken or diminish something by removing large portions of it. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hollow" and "out." The new owners hollowed the company out almost as soon as it was purchased, reducing it to a skeleton operation once its valuable intellectual property had been obtained. Many feel that the current economy is effectively hollowing out the middle class, leaving only people above it or below it.
5. To cause a country's industrial or manufacturing sector to weaken or deteriorate by using the facilities of less expensive, less developed foreign nations. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hollow" and "out"; typically used in passive constructions. Once a titan of commercial manufacturing, the country is being hollowed out by the increase in readily available factories and inexpensive workforce overseas.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
hollow something out
to make the inside of something hollow. Martha hollowed the book out and put her money inside. She hollowed out a book.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.