To whittle is to pare or carve away. Wood carvers whittle pieces of wood, removing bit by bit until what's left is a sailor with a yellow raincoat or a lone wolf howling at the moon.

  • Pronunciation: /'wɪtl/
  • English Description: separate with or as if with an instrument
  • Chinese Translation: 削减(xiao1 jian3)
  • Spanish Translation: tallar
  • STORY: Whittle can also mean to reduce an amount or number of items. In this sense, it is commonly paired with the words away or down. A courtroom attorney might "whittle away" at a defendant's alibi until the truth emerges. You might "whittle down" a to-do list or "whittle away" at your student loan debt every month. But only a highly skilled wood carver can whittle a chunk of pine into that old salty dog with a yellow raincoat.


  • Nonetheless, these countries must still find some other way to whittle away their debts.
  • Although this is still above its theoretical cost of capital of about 10%, the return has been whittled down.

*New word description, story and part of "EXAMPLE SENTENCE" are cited in Vocabulary.com