Definition of nibble in US English:



  • 1Take small bites out of.

    no object ‘she nibbled at her food’
    with object ‘he sat nibbling a cookie’
    • ‘In the afternoons, one can visit local gardens, play croquet, sit amidst the blooming azaleas, nibble on some Devonshire tea, and adamantly wish for a quick death.’
    • ‘Grey-skinned office refugees fill Edmonton's Churchill Square, the bright midday sun forcing them to squint as they nibble on their pallid tuna sandwiches.’
    • ‘I assumed these were for guests, to nibble on while they waited, but I still picked up a few, from time to time, on my way out.’
    • ‘If you suffer from morning sickness, try the following home remedies: nibble on a ginger biscuit before getting up and try to eat a little something often - perhaps a biscuit, oatcake or crispbread.’
    • ‘There it's used as a palate cleanser between bites, but I like to nibble on it all the time at home.’
    • ‘I sat nervously nibbling a biscuit and waiting for her response.’
    • ‘The waiter is going to get just one more positive mention since he bought me a complimentary almond tuille from the in-house organic bakery, to nibble on whilst everyone else finished up with coffee.’
    • ‘If you are a nut fan like me pistachios are a great buy as they are low in saturated fat and naturally cholesterol free - great served in fruit salad, added to mixed vegetables, rice pasta or couscous or just on hand to nibble on.’
    • ‘Also, fill baggies with your fave snacks so you'll have stuff to nibble on when you get the munchies (pack enough to share).’
    • ‘I was still nibbling the biscuits as I left for the gym, so was fairly pleased when I weighed myself there to find that I'd dropped 8.5kg in the last two weeks.’
    • ‘Though you nibble on just two or three cookies at a time, the night always ends with a box as empty as the 1,440 cookie calories you consumed.’
    • ‘We sipped tea and nibbled biscuits at her white lacy table.’
    • ‘And there'd better be something to drink - at least something small to nibble on, depending on the hour of the night or morning.’
    • ‘Before you nosh on your order, you get to nibble on thin and crispy poppadums brushed with ghee, made even yummier when used to scoop up diced pickled carrots sprinkled with black sesame.’
    • ‘So after feeding Alex and getting her dressed, we wandered onto the loggia: me, to do my exercises; her, to nibble on her digestif cracker and enjoy the fresh morning air.’
    • ‘She broke a cookie in half and nibbled at the edges.’
    • ‘It's a good idea also to pack a snack of cheese and biscuits to nibble on between wineries - and if you can persuade a teetotal friend to drive you so much the better!’
    • ‘Next I nibble on the chocolate cookie, reminding myself of the rabbit I had when I was younger.’
    • ‘My poor peppers and chillies look miserably like they've been nibbled at, except there isn't actually any leaf missing.’
    • ‘In addition, nearly 20 per cent kept something to nibble on - a wedding cake, a pork pie and Chinese herbal tablets were among foodstuffs found.’
    take small bites, take small bites from, pick, pick at, gnaw, gnaw at, peck at, pick over, eat listlessly, toy with, eat like a bird
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    1. 1.1no object Eat in small amounts, especially between meals.
      • ‘The kitchen's been abuzz with everybody chopping, nibbling and stirring pots.’
      • ‘The soup is also filling me up, which is a good thing, as it means I'm not nibbling through the afternoon.’
      • ‘There is kitchen fare perfect for late-night nibbling, and a very substantial brunch buffet every Sunday.’
      • ‘Rats and guinea pigs nibble and graze continuously without well-defined meal times.’
      • ‘All the tables outside pubs will already have been hijacked by extended families nibbling and picnicking, which is just unpleasant.’
      • ‘One of the high points for me was standing at the squirrel feeding station and watching two red squirrels, one still young, playing and nibbling without a worry - a rare treat these days.’
      • ‘Feeding on the growth of after work drinking and nibbling, chicken appetizers are gaining strength based on contemporary Mexican and Asian recipes.’
    2. 1.2 Gently bite at (a part of the body), especially amorously or nervously.
      with object ‘Tamar nibbled her bottom lip’
      no object ‘he nibbled at her earlobe’
      • ‘He nibbles your fingers gently.’
      • ‘He nibbled her ear and made her blushed and squeal.’
      • ‘‘I really need to get to art,’ I said, nibbling my lower lip as I worried she wouldn't let me go.’
      • ‘The dog, encouraged, licked and nibbled the boy's ears.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, I enjoyed the attention and liked it even more when she started to nibble my left ear lobe.’
      • ‘Raina kept making sideways glances at Dylan and nibbled on her bottom lip in contemplation.’
      • ‘It went on Andrea shoulders and nibbled her ear affectionately.’
      • ‘She nervously nibbled at one of her finger nails.’
      • ‘Ford spends too much time nibbling Pfeiffer's ears.’
      • ‘She nibbled at his lips, playfully, until he grinned.’
      • ‘PJ was the first to be ‘evicted’ for nibbling Helen's ears, Craig was turfed out for gnawing the cage, and Penny was thrown out for pinching food rations.’
      • ‘He then moved toward her ear, nibbling it gently.’
      • ‘Running his hands through the strands, he nibbled Jace's ear lovingly.’
      • ‘Or grow out those nails when you've been nibbling at them for years.’
      • ‘The pencil in his hand began to sketch on its own accord, tracing the lovely line of her nose, and forming lips that begged to be nibbled at.’
      • ‘Almost immediately Tink fluttered down beside me and nibbled my ear affectionately.’
      • ‘She nibbled nervously on her lower lip, continuing to jog mindlessly.’
      • ‘She nibbled his ear and kissed his neck.’
      • ‘Joss nibbled on her bottom lip, staring ahead as she mentally cursed the stupid L.A. traffic.’
      • ‘Bending his head, he nibbled Inger's right ear playfully.’
      peck, nip, bite
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    3. 1.3 Gradually erode or eat away.
      no object ‘inflation was nibbling away at spending power’
      • ‘But the scene nags at me, nibbling away at the edges of my subconscious, until suddenly it has pushed its way right to the front, as if trying to draw attention to its own relevance.’
      • ‘Sectarian strife, banditry, theft and moral corruption have been nibbling at the soul of our country for quite some time now.’
      • ‘Well, the president has been nibbling on the edges of this one.’
      • ‘Now, the sun was nibbling away at the clouds, helped by the great solar panel beneath.’
      • ‘When it comes to nibbling away at political institutions, this 30-strong musical troupe is right at the coalface.’
      • ‘Changes made by the committees really amount to nibbling at the margins.’
      • ‘That is, some of the earlier guests talked about nibbling away Roe v Wade and other decisions at the edges, that that was only marginal.’
      • ‘On it goes, year after remorseless year, nibbling away at savings, forcing more and ever more stringent economies on the individual until the point is reached at which there are no more economies to be made.’
      • ‘Dow noted that the Supreme Court was already nibbling away at the death penalty.’
      • ‘About a billion tiny things are nibbling at me today.’
      • ‘We all have green goblins, those nagging wee voices nibbling away at our fraying self-esteem and confidence.’
      • ‘MR and Eleanor go into the last week way out in front of the field, Eleanor has been nibbling at MR's lead, can she make a push for the top spot?’
      • ‘The majority of ministers are being nibbled at by the last group.’
      • ‘Villages thrive everywhere nibbling away at the remaining waters.’
      • ‘A woman's right to choose has been nibbled at to where the danger exists that before long, there will be no right left at all.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, there is not enough money or park staff to stop the poaching and illegal timbering that are nibbling at the edges of the rain forest.’
      • ‘The upstart free Web browser Firefox nibbled away more ground from Microsoft over the past month and now has a market share of nearly 5 percent, a research firm said on Tuesday.’
      • ‘But so far I've managed to keep the fear from nibbling at my sanity.’
      • ‘Divya Sreedharan asks BDA commissioner M.N.Vidyashankar why they are nibbling hungrily at the green space in the guise of urbanisation.’
      • ‘The losses are nibbling away at Bradford's importance as a health centre.’
  • 2informal no object Show cautious interest in a project or proposal.

    ‘there's a New York agent nibbling’
    • ‘The irony of English papers nibbling into the Scottish press is that it is happening at a time when Scotland is enjoying the novelty of having its own Parliament.’
    • ‘If the editor nibbles, write the article to word count specification and email it to whatever address they told you to send it.’
    • ‘Yet even with housing sales and prices cooling off and online competitors nibbling at the situation's vacant revenues, he is looking to acquire more newspapers.’
    • ‘Yes, a few are able to nibble at the important trends of the future but not feed directly enough.’
    • ‘One such outfit that is nibbling at Pentamedia's talent and market is Total Infotainment Ltd, Chennai.’
    • ‘Now, if you have that diversified, broad portfolio, only after that do you start to nibble at individual stocks and try to play these opportunities that we see in the market.’
    • ‘Venture capitalists may still be interested in Trinity - but they are more likely to swallow it whole than start nibbling at the edges.’


  • 1An instance of nibbling something.

    • ‘You have to rely on senses and a vague idea about what a fish eating a worm feels like through the line, and what it looks like as the nibble bends the tip of your rod.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, just down the river, a white father and son are fishing for food and not getting a nibble.’
    • ‘I think the jury system is going to survive, with nibbles taken out of it.’
    • ‘He said anyone who goes through what he did without even getting a nibble from a fish on his line deserves his money back.’
    • ‘With a teasing nibble to Shanza's earlobe, he trailed feather soft kisses down her jaw-line.’
    • ‘Yesterday, the stylus of an observatory seismograph continued to jiggle every few seconds like the end of a fishing rod reacting to nibbles.’
    • ‘We even dived into the waters of the Blue Lagoon Caves, only to be driven out again by the irritating nibbles of water-fleas.’
    • ‘I skipped starters and had the goulash soup instead, but had a nibble at the other two's plates.’
    • ‘The thing about nibbles is that no matter how tiny they are, each takes a bite out of one's credibility.’
    • ‘Like Lawson, she responds with semi-delirium to certain tastes, and makes breathless lowing noises between nibbles.’
    • ‘We drifting around for a bit, moving from spot to spot trying to find some poor fish that would be stumped by our dying worms and take a bigger bite that just a nibble.’
    • ‘Just a nibble on a Rich Tea biscuit in the morning would soon banish the malaise.’
    • ‘The dismantling of misconceptions and hype often starts not with a lacerating bite, but with tiny nibbles that are easy to ignore, laugh at and explain away.’
    • ‘It means drawing a baited line through the water and waiting for a nibble.’
    • ‘It was very relaxing to watch the boats go by with their night lanterns on and on occasion feel the nibble from the fishing rod hoping you would catch the big one.’
    • ‘She was giggling, occasionally giving him a kiss, a nibble.’
    • ‘And he proceeded to tickle her with nibbles up and down her wrist and fingers.’
    • ‘A mile off the Ft. Lauderdale coast, mom and daughter dropped their baited lines, hoping for a nibble from grouper or triggerfish to take home for dinner.’
    • ‘For those of us hopeless optimists for whom every nibble is surely an interested salmon, the fly can seem sterile.’
    bite, gnaw, peck, taste
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    1. 1.1 A small piece of food bitten off.
      • ‘One nibble of lettuce and you were instantly disqualified.’
      • ‘I discovered this when she was about 16 months old, after letting her have a nibble from the corner of a premium plus cracker with peanut butter on it.’
      • ‘I nodded, taking a nibble of dressing covered lettuce.’
      • ‘I had a nibble of the duck meat, which had a lovely shadow of sweetness - a great combination of ingredients.’
      • ‘A nibble here, a little slice there, it was all gone in about a minute.’
      • ‘Under the broken birdhouse a mouse plays with a nibble of yesterday's bread.’
      • ‘Holding it back for a moment as if it would somehow take a bite of her, carefully she took a small nibble of it.’
      • ‘That way not only do you set off the alarm if you leave the store without visiting the cashier, but you also can't take any nibbles before you pay up.’
      • ‘Lander just stared at her openly and played with the third strawberry in between his fingers before taking a nibble of the fruit.’
      • ‘Or at least I would have spluttered over my cornflakes if I could eat cornflakes, or toast, or even a nibble of a Rich Tea biscuit.’
      • ‘We went out for brunch because Libby mentioned she was starving, having only had a nibble of the breakfast Pam's mom had cooked.’
      • ‘And every year my darling little niece has the smallest of nibbles, tells me it's lovely and goes and spits it out in the upstairs loo when she thinks I'm not looking.’
      • ‘When confronted with a waffle for the first time, Sugar sniffs delicately and digests a tiny nibble.’
      • ‘I had a couple of nibbles in the Shoreditch Shish - because let's face it, I'm a creature of habit, and if I leave North London for East, I like to eat in the same place.’
      • ‘I had a nibble when she wasn't looking, which wasn't often.’
      • ‘Nonetheless I liked this dish - or the nibble of it I was allowed.’
      • ‘They wanted an easy way to take a few nibbles at a time, a strategy that lets them maintain their energy levels over the course of a long ride.’
      • ‘Gaup and Mai join our group and after being introduced they try their first nibble of Japanese food.’
      morsel, mouthful, bite, crumb, grain
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    2. 1.2nibblesinformal Small savory snacks, typically eaten before a meal or with drinks.
      • ‘And I bet they serve cheesy nibbles and M & S roulade.’
      • ‘The food is simple but good, usually a formidable steak from MacEwans Meats on 17th Avenue S.W., cooked by you to your liking and served with various nibbles from the Italian market.’
      • ‘Sipping a sundowner and tucking into homemade nibbles on one of the islands in the river before returning after dark to a hot shower under the stars was an unforgettable experience.’
      • ‘Tickets are £5 each, and will include a memento of the occasion and a finger buffet / nibbles.’
      • ‘Keep your distance from the nibbles, buffet table or food table.’
      • ‘But instead of resorting to the sort of supermarket canapés that are served with inevitable monotony at so many parties, why not opt for home-made nibbles, which also work out far cheaper.’
      • ‘Entry fee of $25 per team includes lunch and after game nibbles.’
      • ‘They promise free wine and festive nibbles and 10% off everything.’
      • ‘Seated at long, wooden tables and benches, with cursory nibbles and an endless supply of dry and medium delights, you'll find this is a great place to meet new best friends - for as long as the tasting lasts at least.’
      • ‘We could maybe build a robot like Elliott, but it would have a terrible time, paralysed by indecision and pretty useless at bringing us the right bowl of nibbles when we needed it.’
      • ‘We cleaned Sainsbury's out of booze and party food, so when the guests, mostly Cello's colleagues, started to arrive, they were greeted by a table groaning with nibbles and intoxicants.’
      • ‘The book launch itself was a study in Wellington writers and readers: equal parts present, they filled up the bookshop until there was no elbow room at all and the staff serving nibbles had to hold the trays high above their heads.’
      • ‘The next three floors are a whirl of bedrooms, bathrooms and dressing rooms before we arrive at the drawing room, which has its own kitchen area so that the staff don't have to slog up the stairs with the pre-dinner nibbles.’
      • ‘We were at Jacqui & Ian's house last night and as nibbles they had bought a Sainsburys product called ‘Chips and Dips’.’
      • ‘Hopefully there was a stopover at Jim's Place, Stuart's Well, for hot toddies and nibbles, the last sign of running water for a while and maybe Dinky, the resident dingo, crooned a special early song for them all.’
      • ‘After the business was finished members had nibbles and their customary glass of wine.’
      • ‘There is also a vast range of complimentary nibbles left in each room, such as tablet, shortbread and fruitcake; all home-made and all delicious.’
      • ‘My father, being a senior consultant in a busy hospital, dragged us around the wards to spread good tidings to patients and to munch the array of nibbles in the nurses' rooms.’
      • ‘I rather like that idea, that a tray of tasty little nibbles might be passed around in the middle of the service. Maybe offering some light refreshments during church services would be a good idea.’
      • ‘There's a candle-lit Garden in summer and the 1894 Food and Wine Cellar for wines by the glass and deluxe nibbles under more candles, barrels and bare brickwork every night.’
      snack, light meal, something to eat, mouthful, soupçon, nibbles, titbit, savoury, appetizer
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  • 2informal An expression of cautious interest in a project or proposal.

    ‘now and then she gets a nibble, but no one will commit to an interview’
    • ‘I've had some nibbles on book deals and I'll look into that, too.’
    • ‘So Gibson might have expected a few nibbles from the major studios for his latest historical epic.’
    • ‘Of course, waaaayyy back when Mike was a prepster, the best a running QB could do was a nibble from Va. Tech.’
    • ‘Please let me know if you have any ideas or job nibbles.’
    • ‘A few optimistic investors may have decided to take the old standard on board and take a nibble at foods company Greencore, as market speculation round the stock intensified last week.’
    • ‘Marshall has gotten a few nibbles of interest, and some of his pupils have been signed, though most pitching coaches try to undo what he has taught.’
    • ‘A couple of the crumbs that materialized in the last year seemed substantial and nourishing at first nibble.’
    • ‘But in a statement today the Basingstoke telco said that while it's had a nibble, it's unlikely to amount to much.’
    • ‘In failing to make a loan deal with Hearts permanent during the summer, he is the man who may have turned down the chance of a banquet for whatever nibbles might come the way of Gordon Chisholm's men this week, and, it is to be hoped, beyond.’
    • ‘Aspac officials are encouraged by nibbles from baseball, volleyball and rugby teams, a healthy sign some of the best may be back.’
    • ‘If you don't get a nibble, write for newsletters.’
    • ‘Sticking with edibles, food manufacturers may be worth a nibble too.’
    • ‘I might as well have stayed in bed - there was not a single nibble.’
    • ‘We got a lot of interest, a few nibbles, but ultimately no bites.’


Late 15th century: probably of Low German or Dutch origin; compare with Low German nibbeln ‘gnaw’.