to cut (a solid material) so as to form something:
to carve a piece of pine.
to form from a solid material by cutting:
to carve a statue out of stone.
to cut into slices or pieces, as a roast of meat.
to decorate with designs or figures cut on the surface:
The top of the box was beautifully carved with figures of lions and unicorns.
to cut (a design, figures, etc.) on a surface:
Figures of lions and unicorns were carved on the top of the box.
to make or create for oneself (often followed by out):
He carved out a career in business.
to carve figures, designs, etc.
to cut meat.
Contemporary Examples

Still, amid the uncertainty the residents of Bab al-Salameh do their best to carve a semblance of order into their lives.
Millions of Refugees from Syria’s War Are Clinging to Life In Toxic Conditions Christopher Looney April 13, 2014

Her concern was more that the theatrical bloodline was one she could never escape to carve out her own niche.
Writers and Actors Recall Her Life Isabel Wilkinson March 18, 2009

Any way you carve it, Going Rogue looks to be a $12 million goldmine.
Palin’s Gold Mine Duff McDonald November 18, 2009

The whole purpose of “Turn the Gays Away” was to carve out religious exemptions to civil rights laws.
Do Corporations Believe in God? The ‘Hobby Lobby’ Case Has the Answer Jay Michaelson March 21, 2014

I hate to carve up a book into parcels, to evaluate art with that crass finality of the food critic judging course after course.
Thomas Pynchon Meets His Match: The Internet Alexander Nazaryan September 10, 2013

Historical Examples

A sculptor was set to work to carve a new one from the ruin.
Buried Cities: Pompeii, Olympia, Mycenae Jennie Hall

Peacocks, &c.: carve like you do the Crane, keeping their feet on.
Early English Meals and Manners Various

He then proceeded to carve the nose, but no sooner had he made it than it began to grow.
Pinocchio C. Collodi

carve all the letters of the alphabet on a medium sized pumpkin.
Games For All Occasions Mary E. Blain

I will carve your statue in marble, for you always stand vividly before my eyes.
The Precipice Ivan Goncharov

(transitive) to cut or chip in order to form something: to carve wood
to decorate or form (something) by cutting or chipping: to carve statues
to slice (meat) into pieces: to carve a turkey

Old English ceorfan (class III strong verb; past tense cearf, past participle corfen) “to cut, cut down, slay; to carve, cut out, engrave,” from West Germanic *kerfan (cf. Old Frisian kerva, Middle Dutch and Dutch kerven, German kerben “to cut, notch”), from PIE root *gerbh- “to scratch,” making carve the English cognate of Greek graphein “to write,” originally “to scratch” on clay tablets with a stylus.

Once extensively used, most senses now usurped by cut (v.). Meaning specialized to sculpture, meat, etc., by 16c. Related: Carved; carving. Original strong conjugation has been abandoned, but archaic carven lingers.


To give one a thrill; send: He carves me. Does he carve you? (1930s+ Jive talk)

The arts of engraving and carving were much practised among the Jews. They were practised in connection with the construction of the tabernacle and the temple (Ex. 31:2, 5; 35:33; 1 Kings 6:18, 35; Ps. 74:6), as well as in the ornamentation of the priestly dresses (Ex. 28:9-36; Zech. 3:9; 2 Chr. 2:7, 14). Isaiah (44:13-17) gives a minute description of the process of carving idols of wood.


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  • Carry the banner

    carry the banner verb phrase To walk the street all night for lack of a bed: I have ”carried the banner” in infernal metropolises (1890s+ Hoboes)

  • Carry the difference

    carry the difference verb phrase To be armed: If you’re going to fool around with that guy, don’t you think you ought to carry the difference? (1900s+)

  • Carry the load

    carry the load verb phrase To do or be responsible for the major part of a job: His wife carried the load in that family (1950s+)

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