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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.
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