winnow out(redirected from winnow something out)
1. To use a current of air to blow chaff away from grain. A noun or pronoun can be used between "winnow" and "out." The revolutionary new machine promises to winnow out 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 out.
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 "out." The grueling nature of these exams in meant to test the learning of up-and-coming doctors, as well as winnow out those who don't have the determination and resilience. The committee will first winnow the weakest applicants out 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 out any problems with logic or evidence.
3. To select the most capable, desirable, or viable persons or things from a group, discarding the rest. A noun or pronoun can used between "winnow" and "out." Our application process already brings in the brightest the country has to offer, so our interview process has to winnow out the very best of the best. A good editor can winnow out the best parts of a manuscript while discarding or reshaping what doesn't work as well.
4. 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 "out." The company always takes on a large number of interns each summer, winnowing it out 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 separate some material, such as chaff, from grain by means of a current of air: The farmer winnows out the chaff with a machine. There is always some debris in the harvest, but we winnow it out.
2. To separate or get rid of some unfit or undesirable part; eliminate something or someone: The lions tend to winnow out the sick antelope. The political process will winnow the weakest candidates out.
3. To sort or select some fit or desirable part; extract someone or something: We winnowed out the top candidates from the rest and interviewed them. There are only a few good pieces of wood in this shipment, and it will take a long time to winnow them out.
4. To rid some group of unfit or undesirable members: The test winnowed out the applicant pool.
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.