Etymology
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whittle (v.)
1550s, "to cut thin shavings from (something) with a knife," from Middle English whittel "a knife," especially a large one (c. 1400), variant of thwittle (late 14c.), from Old English þwitan "to cut," from Proto-Germanic *thwit- (source also of Old Norse þveita "to hew"), from PIE root *twei- "to agitate, shake, toss" (see seismo-). Figurative sense is attested from 1746. Related: Whittled; whittling.
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thwaite (n.)
"cleared land," 1620s, from Old Norse or Old Danish þveit "a clearing, meadow, paddock," literally "a cutting, cut-piece" (related to Old English þwitan "to cut, cut off;" see whittle). Always a rare word and now obsolete, but frequently encountered in place names, but "It is unclear whether the base meaning was 'something cut off, detached piece of land,' or 'something cut down, felled tree' ..." [Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names].
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fritter (v.)
"whittle away, waste bit by bit, spend on trifles," 1728, probably from noun fritter "fragment or shred" (though this is recorded later), perhaps an alteration of 16c. fitters "fragments or pieces," which is perhaps ultimately from Old French fraiture "a breaking," from Latin fractura [OED]. Or perhaps from a Germanic *fet-source (compare Middle High German vetze "clothes, rags," Old English fetel "girdle").
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