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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English whittel ‎(large knife), an alteration of thwitel, itself from thwiten ‎(to whittle), from Old English thwitan. Compare Old Norse þveita ‎(to hurl)

EB1911 - Volume 01 - Page 001 - 1.svg This entry lacks etymological information. If you are familiar with the origin of this term, please add it to the page per etymology instructions. You can also discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.
Particularly: “OED gives also ‘to intoxicate’”


whittle ‎(plural whittles)

  1. A knife; especially, a pocket knife, sheath knife, or clasp knife.
    • Dryden
      A butcher's whittle.
    • Macaulay
      Rude whittles.
    • Betterton
      He wore a Sheffield whittle in his hose.


whittle ‎(third-person singular simple present whittles, present participle whittling, simple past and past participle whittled)

  1. (transitive or intransitive) To cut or shape wood with a knife.
  2. (transitive) To reduce or gradually eliminate something (such as a debt).
  3. (transitive, figuratively) To make eager or excited; to excite with liquor; to inebriate.
    • Withals
      When men are well whittled, their tongues run at random.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From an Old English word for "white"; akin to an Icelandic word for a white bedcover.


whittle ‎(plural whittles)

  1. (archaic) A coarse greyish double blanket worn by countrywomen, in the west of England, over the shoulders, like a cloak or shawl.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Charles Kingsley to this entry?)
  2. (archaic) A whittle shawl; a kind of fine woollen shawl, originally and especially a white one.


  • Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield, Massachusetts, G.&C. Merriam Co., 1967