To winnow is to blow something away until you are left with what you want, like grain from chaff. If you only want your favorite people to attend your party, you will need to winnow down the guest list from 300 to 30.

To winnow is to use air to “separate the wheat from the chaff" — literally or figuratively. If a coach winnows down the top NBA draft picks to his number one choice, then he'll focus his negotiations on that player. Chances are, if you encounter the word winnow on a given day, it is probably not in the literal context of grain.

Definitions of winnow

n the act of separating grain from chaff

sifting, winnowing
Type of:
sorting one thing from others

v separate the chaff from by using air currents

“She stood there winnowing chaff all day in the field”
Type of:
sieve, sift, strain
separate by passing through a sieve or other straining device to separate out coarser elements

v blow on

“The wind was winnowing her hair”
“the wind winnowed the grass”
Type of:
agitate the air

v blow away or off with a current of air

winnow chaff”
Type of:
remove, take, take away, withdraw
remove something concrete, as by lifting, pushing, or taking off, or remove something abstract

v select desirable parts from a group or list

winnow the finalists from the long list of applicants”
cull out
Type of:
choose, pick out, select, take
pick out, select, or choose from a number of alternatives

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