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  • IPA(key): /ˈʍɪtəl/, /ˈwɪtəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪtəl

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English whittel (large knife), an alteration of thwitel, itself from thwiten (to whittle), from Old English þwītan (to strike down, whittle), from Proto-Germanic *þwītaną, from Proto-Indo-European *tweys- (to shake, hurl, toss). Compare Old Norse þveita (to hurl), Ancient Greek σείω (seíō, I shake). Related to thwite and thwaite.


whittle (plural whittles)

  1. A knife; especially, a clasp knife, pocket knife, or sheath knife.


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.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, chapter X, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC:
      He was sitting on a bench before the fire, with his feet on the stove hearth, and in one hand was holding close up to his face that little negro idol of his; peering hard into its face, and with a jack-knife gently whittling away at its nose, meanwhile humming to himself in his heathenish way.
  2. (transitive) To reduce or gradually eliminate something (such as a debt).
  3. (transitive, figurative) To make eager or excited; to excite with liquor; to inebriate.
    • 1554, John Withals, A Dictionarie in English and Latine:
      When men are well whitled, their toungs run at randome
Derived terms[edit]
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Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English whytel, from Old English hwītel (cloak, blanket), from Proto-West Germanic *hwītil, from Proto-Germanic *hwītilaz, equivalent to white +‎ -le; akin to Icelandic hvítill (white bedcover, sheet, linen).


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.
    • 1857, Charles Kingsley, “(please specify the page)”, in Two Years Ago, volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Macmillan and Co., →OCLC:
      Her figure is tall , graceful , and slight ; the severity of its outlines suiting well with the severity of her dress , with the brown stuff gown , and plain gray whittle
  2. (archaic) A whittle shawl; a kind of fine woollen shawl, originally and especially a white one.