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

The list was whittled down using a scoring system during a process that included a review of applications and a round of interviews. San Diego Union-Tribune, "These marijuana dispensaries and delivery businesses are still competing for licenses in Chula Vista," 17 Sep. 2019 With the two-night finale close at hand (airing Sept. 17 and 18 on NBC), this season of America’s Got Talent has been whittled down to 10 finalists. Tyler Aquilina, EW.com, "Everything you need to know about the America's Got Talent season 14 finalists," 12 Sep. 2019 Then that’s denied, requiring yet another appeal, and after a few months of this roundelay a sizable liability can be whittled away to nothing. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Did the FTC mislead consumers about its Equifax data breach settlement? Yes!," 10 Sep. 2019 Their numbers, once in the thousands, have been whittled down to a few hundred, and they are imperiled by disease and human expansion. oregonlive, "Hurricane’s Dorian’s beeline past North Carolina will leave wild horses to ride it out, ‘butt to the wind’," 5 Sep. 2019 The multitude of candidates vying for the open seat on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners has been whittled down to just two: a political newcomer and a former state representative who have stark differences in both background and ideology. Tad Vezner, Twin Cities, "Frethem, Jessup are top 2 vote-getters in primary for vacated Ramsey County Board seat," 13 Aug. 2019 The autonomy they were promised in the republic’s earliest years had already been whittled down. The Economist, "Modi’s revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy," 9 Aug. 2019 The National Bracket has been whittled down to three teams as well. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "NASA-Orange 14s stay alive at South Zone Tournament with two dramatic victories," 2 Aug. 2019 The 2019 lineup of contestants was whittled down to 20 total finalists from more than 800 entries. Paul Stephen, ExpressNews.com, "H-E-B picks 5 San Antonio-area finalists in 2019 Quest for Texas Best," 24 July 2019

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

friendly or mild

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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!