whittle

1 of 2

noun

whit·​tle ˈ(h)wi-tᵊl How to pronounce whittle (audio)
archaic
: a large knife

whittle

2 of 2

verb

whittled; whittling
ˈ(h)wit-liŋ,
ˈ(h)wi-tᵊl-iŋ How to pronounce whittle (audio)

transitive verb

1
a
: 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
whittler
ˈ(h)wit-lər
ˈ(h)wi-tᵊl-ər How to pronounce whittle (audio)
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
Verb
The program has won four state titles, crowning 16 individual champs in a state where a nation-leading 20,000 or so competitors are whittled to one winner at each weight. Bryce Miller, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Feb. 2024 The waist, whittled by a corset, is back (for men as well as women), as is the constructed silhouette, an inheritance passed down in contemporary Western fashion by Christian Dior and Charles James. Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue, 29 Jan. 2024 For the past several years, 15 songs have been chosen for the shortlist and members whittle the number down to a final five. Jon Burlingame, Variety, 23 Jan. 2024 There are simply too many formidable candidates to have to whittle these women down to five, and on nomination morning, the snubs here will no doubt be the most painful. Kyle Buchanan, New York Times, 17 Jan. 2024 While the results of the first two nominating contests might not be determinative, Iowa and New Hampshire can whittle the field, provide candidates with momentum heading into other early-voting states and set the stage for Super Tuesday. Rosie Ettenheim, WSJ, 15 Jan. 2024 Beers capped a 9-0 run for the Beavers (12-2, 1-2 Pac-12) early in the fourth quarter that whittled UCLA’s 16-point lead down to seven. Thuc Nhi Nguyen, Los Angeles Times, 7 Jan. 2024 The Titans hit a couple threes the rest of the way to whittle the deficit to single digits by halftime. Todd Rosiak, Journal Sentinel, 6 Jan. 2024 The tradeoff for not being reassigned is that Hoke’s supplemental base pay was decreased, whittling $1.3 million off his compensation. Kirk Kenney, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'whittle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1552, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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

Dictionary Entries Near whittle

Cite this Entry

“Whittle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whittle. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

whittle

verb
whit·​tle
ˈhwit-ᵊl,
ˈwit-
whittled; whittling
-liŋ,
-ᵊl-iŋ
1
a
: to shave or cut off chips from the surface of wood with a knife
b
: to shape or form by so shaving or cutting
2
: to reduce gradually : pare
whittle down expenses
whittler
-lər
-ᵊl-ər
noun

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