whittle at

whittle at (something)

1. To carve small sections away from something, especially a piece of wood, to in order to shape it or make it smaller. We used to sit on our back porch and whittle at blocks of soap until they were in the shapes of tiny animals. I had to keep whittling at the edge of the door until it fit into the frame properly.
2. To reduce or eliminate the size, scope, or strength of something by incrementally removing small parts. If they keep whittling at our budget like this, our department will have to close down before too long. I know writing your thesis seems daunting right now, but you just have to whittle at it bit by bit over time.
See also: whittle
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Gwen Palmer, who worked alongside Whittle at the Cresswell Ward, said she first suspected that she was drinking on duty towards the end of 2006.