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When you sharpen your pencil with a pencil sharpener, you have some thin flat pieces of wood that might be in the shape of a cone.

What is that piece called?

Is it a chip?

  • 5
    I'm pretty certain you could have looked up the term in your native language in any bilingual dictionary or online translator.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 13:28
  • 4
    @Mari-LouA, it'll be "the skin of the pencil"
    – Tom
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 14:11
  • 1
    It wouldn't be translated as that. Try Google translator
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 14:19
  • 1
    @Buffy; Tom No, it might not. Not even if you thought Mari-LouA or anyone else here should be doing your research for you. Please be sure, I have no intention of dragging Mari-LouA into anything… I merely happen to agree… I suggest there is not, never has been and is never likely to be any consensus. Why not is a different Question and if you Post that, I'll try to Answer it. My own suggestion would be a 'shaving' or a 'flake' and please remember that however thin, that piece of wood could never rightly be described as 'flat.' Does that work for you? Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 23:32
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA This is exactly the sort of item that can be difficult to translate using a dictionary. If the common term is a generic term, the literal translation may not match up in the target language. Apparently the OP's language calls it the "skin," but that does not match up with "skin" in English. As for Google Translate: it is useful, but not to be trusted, as it can make mistakes that a human would not make. You should verify Google Translate with a native speaker for anything other than casual conversation.
    – trlkly
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 7:16

3 Answers 3


Thin slivers of wood made by a blade, e.g. a pencil sharpener, carpenter's tools, etc, are called [wood] shavings. Those made by sharpening a pencil may be more specifically called pencil shavings, or, at least in the UK, pencil sharpenings (with thanks to George Savva).

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  • 7
    And to make this answer complete (with regard to the OP), no these don’t qualify as chips. Wood chips are thicker than wood shavings. The distinction gets gray, of course, but as a rough guide I’d say wood chips are thicker than 1 mm and wood shavings are thinner than 1 mm. Or thereabouts. If held in a flame, a wood chip would catch fire fairly easily, but a wood shaving would ignite almost immediately and be consumed in just a few seconds. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 13:16
  • 10
    I would also say, if we are getting exact here, that a wood shaving was shaved (a particular kind of action) from a piece of wood, whereas a wood chip was either broken (chipped) off a piece of wood, or created when a piece of wood has been completely broken. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 13:20
  • 7
    I agree with that. Chips generally result from breakage across a surface or discrete blows more obliquely (as from a chisel). Shavings result from continuous sliding of a very sharp object (as a plane) along and nearly parallel to the surface. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 13:26
  • 5
    And taken together—when considered as the waste material resulting from some shaping process—the shavings and chips collectively are called swarf, though this term is fairly technical and not in wide, everyday use. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 13:38
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    – Laurel
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 21:41

I would probably just call them 'the bits', but you could call them wood shavings.

  • 6
    Definitely 'pencil shavings' for me. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 8:53
  • 4
    When I was a kid my pal and I used to pretend that pencil shavings were 'tobacco' and try to smoke them in my dad's old pipe. Now, more than 60 years later, I was Googling for 'pencil shavings' and found a Quora page about exactly that. Message: don't do it! Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 9:45
  • 9
    "The bits" sounds like an unspecific catchall category. "Shavings" is much better.
    – Joachim
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 10:14
  • Michael Harvey's shavings are wood shavings, but the pencil shavings in OP's picture aren't wood shavings! They aren't big enough. And the pencil's not big enough. They are shavings, of course, though. And pencil shavings too. (For me, anyway) Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 11:03
  • 1
    In the OP's picture, the shavings are across the grain, versus @MichaelHarvey's picture with the cuts along the grain. With a sharp chisel you can get shavings off the end or cross grain, but it is much more difficult. If the chiseling is done across the grain or on the end grain, the shavings would be much shorter. The OP's shavings could be small because the blade is dull, and could be longer if the blade was sharper. You get shavings from the shaving action, and they can degrade to chips if the shaving doesn't work well. It is a matter of degree.
    – Dave X
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 5:57

I think 'shavings' (as other answer and comments) is probably accurate, but my first thought (native British English speaker) was 'sharpenings'.

'Sharpenings' gets lots of relevent hits on Google (eg https://www.123rf.com/photo_59315311_close-up-of-colorful-wooden-pencil-sharpenings.html) so it must be used to some extent.

And here it is as a noun in the Collins dictionary (second definition): https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/sharpening

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  • 1
    +1 - I found a New Scientist article about how their smell evokes memories, and it calls them both shavings and sharpenings. Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 12:58
  • @MichaelHarvey its a lovely word Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 13:00
  • @MichaelHarvey so I don't know the etiquette of ELL very well, but it seems a bit off to immediately take my answer and add it to your own uncredited. Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 13:43
  • I apologise! Forgetfulness rather than deliberate rudeness. Duly amended. Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 13:47

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