whittle away at (something)

(redirected from whittle away at)

whittle away 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 away at blocks of soap until they were in the shapes of tiny animals. I had to keep whittling away 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 away at our budget like this, our department will have to close down before too long. The president's administration continued to whittle away at the powers of congress and the courts until he had complete control of the country. Having to write a thesis this length was daunting, but I've just whittled away at it every day for the last three months.
See also: away, whittle
References in periodicals archive ?
Large Transactions, Minimal Space Returns Whittle Away at Availability
als Zeichner exhibition in Berlin of 1975 continued to whittle away at the core opus, while at the same time enriching our understanding of drawings by his Netherlandish contemporaries.
However, in Letter Ruling (TAM) 9532001, the IRS began to whittle away at Cristofani.
And so that time isn't wasted, we've designed a mind-boggling array of gadgets, gizmos, and whirligigs to help us whittle away at it.
A very distant cloud would look as it did when the universe was in its infancy, before waves of star formation had had a chance to whittle away at the deuterium.