whittle

noun
whit·​tle | \ ˈhwi-tᵊl How to pronounce whittle (audio) , ˈwi-\

Definition of whittle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

archaic
: a large knife

whittle

verb
whittled; whittling\ ˈhwit-​liŋ How to pronounce whittling (audio) , ˈwit-​ ; ˈhwi-​tᵊl-​iŋ , ˈwi-​ \

Definition of whittle (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to pare or cut off chips from the surface of (wood) with a knife
b : to shape or form by so paring or cutting
2 : to reduce, remove, or destroy gradually as if by cutting off bits with a knife : pare whittle down expenses

intransitive verb

1 : to cut or shape something (such as wood) by or as if by paring it with a knife
2 : to wear oneself or another out with fretting

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from whittle

Verb

whittler \ ˈhwit-​lər How to pronounce whittler (audio) , ˈwit-​ ; ˈhwi-​tᵊl-​ər , ˈwi-​ \ noun

Examples of whittle in a Sentence

Verb

He was sitting on the porch, whittling a stick. She whittled a walking stick from a maple tree branch.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Whittle fed Hartshorn and then scored back-to-back free-position goals, including her 200th career goal. Katherine Dunn, baltimoresun.com, "Maryland women hold off Johns Hopkins, 19-16, to advance to Big Ten final," 5 May 2017 Whittle down the big idea, ratchet it up a notch, and repeat to a beat—fight the power, and imagine all the people living life in peace, because God is a d.j. Matthew Trammell, The New Yorker, "Polarized Punks," 7 Mar. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Eliminating breads, starches, and baked goods in addition to cutting out alcohol, processed sugar, and dairy—on the advice of my trainer—quickly whittled my waist, chiseled my arms, and sharpened my jawline. Lauren Levinson, Harper's BAZAAR, "I Stopped Eating Carbs After 2:30 p.m. and It Changed My Body," 14 June 2018 Because the Big Island is younger and growing, those forces haven't whittled much of it away. Phil Gast And Brandon Miller, CNN, "Hawaii's 'hot spot': It makes volcanoes and islands," 7 May 2018 But recent primaries have whittled the field down to around 50, a number that still far exceeds the dozen or so who ran in 2016, said Shaun Kennedy, co-founder of Jetpac, a Massachusetts nonprofit that helps train Muslim-American candidates. Jeff Karoub, The Seattle Times, "Muslims run for office in record numbers but the path is uphill," 16 July 2018 Over the past decades, a U.S. manufacturing operation with 15 sewing factories, two plants making down for parkas and more than 3,500 workers whittled down to a skeleton crew of about 45 employees at the Pennsylvania mill. Ruth Simon, WSJ, "Weaving Magic Unravels in Woolrich, Pa.," 21 Dec. 2018 Currently, a handful of sizes in each color are available, in both ankle and regular lengths, with certain size-color combos whittled down to just three or four pairs inventory-wise. Alexandra Ilyashov, Glamour, "I Tested Everlane's Work Pants to See What All the Hype Was About," 30 July 2018 After a month of intense battling, and 32 teams whittled down to just two, the football tournament officially came to a close today at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, with a 4-2 victory for France. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "France Wins the 2018 World Cup, and Twitter Goes Wild," 15 July 2018 The voting period for whittling that list down even further is still open through October, and readers can vote via app or social media. Rachel King, Fortune, "Book Clubs Are Really Having a Moment Right Now," 2 July 2018 Every year, Harvard’s admissions officers are charged with whittling a batch of 40,000 applicants down to a bare-bones selection to fill the institution’s roughly 1,600 freshman seats. Alia Wong, The Atlantic, "Harvard's Impossible Personality Test," 19 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whittle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of whittle

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1552, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for whittle

Noun

Middle English whittel, alteration of thwitel, from thwiten to whittle, from Old English thwītan; akin to Old Norse thveita to hew

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about whittle

Statistics for whittle

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whittle

The first known use of whittle was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for whittle

whittle

verb

English Language Learners Definition of whittle

: to cut or shape (a piece of wood) by cutting small pieces from it : to make or shape (something) from a piece of wood by cutting small pieces from it

whittle

verb
whit·​tle | \ ˈhwi-tᵊl How to pronounce whittle (audio) , ˈwi-\
whittled; whittling

Kids Definition of whittle

1 : to cut or shave off chips from wood : shape by cutting or shaving off chips from wood
2 : to reduce little by little They are trying to whittle down their spending.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on whittle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whittle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for whittle

Spanish Central: Translation of whittle

Nglish: Translation of whittle for Spanish Speakers

Comments on whittle

What made you want to look up whittle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

the way words of a language are spelled

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!