whittle away at (something)

(redirected from whittled 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 ?
Obama has whittled away at the Guantanamo Bay population throughout his presidency, but has had no luck in keeping his campaign promise of closing the facility, which held suspects after the 9/11 terror attacks.
They've turned up at his home unasked, done repairs that he did not ask them to do and whittled away at his savings, even resorting to driving him to a money machine to withdraw more cash.
For 10 years I happily and enthusiastically whittled away at my life list and scratched off most.
After the break Borders whittled away at the visitors' lead with two more Warnock penalties.
Borders whittled away at the visitors' lead with two more Warnock penalties after the break then ref Tim Hayes sin-binned rival breakaway forwards Wayne McEntee and John O'Sullivan.
Part of the reason, he said, is that attorneys have "whittled away at the election laws" to enable more candidates to run.
However, Catunda Lord whittled away at the leader's advantage and turned into the home straight only a little over a length behind.