whit·tle (wĭtl, hwĭtl)
v. whit·tled, whit·tling, whit·tles
a. To cut small bits or pare shavings from (a piece of wood).
b. To fashion or shape in this way: whittle a toy boat.
2. To reduce or eliminate gradually: whittled down the debt by making small payments.
To cut or shape wood with a knife.
[From Middle English whyttel, knife, variant of thwitel, from thwiten, to whittle, from Old English thwītan, to strike, whittle down.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.