1. To use a current of air to blow chaff away from grain. A noun or pronoun can be used between "winnow" and "away." The revolutionary new machine promises to winnow away chaff much faster with a lower percentage of grain being lost or destroyed in the process. Before they had mechanical means, farmers had to rely on the wind to winnow chaff and other debris away.
2. To filter out and remove persons or things that are unfit, unwanted, or unreliable. A noun or pronoun can be used between "winnow" and "away." The grueling nature of these exams in meant to test the learning of up-and-coming doctors, as well as winnow away those who don't have the determination and resilience. The committee will first winnow the weakest applicants away before beginning to seriously examine those who might be accepted into the university. We'll subject your thesis to a panel of professors in order to winnow away any problems with logic or evidence.
3. To cause a group to become smaller by removing the least able or desirable people or things from it. A noun or pronoun can be used between "winnow" and "away." The company always takes on a large number of interns each summer, winnowing it away until only the most capable remain to be given work full time. Natural selection winnows out the population of animals, leaving behind those with the traits necessary to withstand the environment and its predators.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
1. To remove some material, such as chaff, from grain by means of a current of air: Modern machines can winnow away all the chaff very efficiently. The farmers winnow the chaff away by flinging the grain into the air with a large blanket.
2. To get rid of some unfit or undesirable part; eliminate something or someone: The process will winnow away the weakest candidates. The editor winnowed most of the errors away.
3. To reduce some group by separating or eliminating the unfit or undesirable part: The process winnowed away the field of candidates.
4. To remove some material from a mixture by means of a current of air or water: The wind has winnowed away the sand from the soil. Water currents pick up mud from the riverbank and winnow it away, exposing the rock.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.