I've been told by a native speaker that the verb "to nibble" can be used both with and without a preposition. So, is there a difference between

I would definitely like to nibble on one of those sweet, sweet rodents!


I would definitely like to nibble one of those sweet, sweet rodents!

See this question on Travel-SE for some context.

Which one (or maybe both) are correct? Is there a difference in meaning?

3 Answers 3


There’s little difference, as these two citations from the OED, both from the 1980s, show:

She and Roy would nibble on each other.

Encircling her slim waist with a fond arm, the husband of a fortnight nibbles her throat.

Neither describes an act of cannibalism.

  • 1
    +1 for the clarification at the end of the succinct answer.
    – Irene
    Dec 16, 2011 at 16:41

Without the preposition is more common, but with the preposition is gaining in popularity.A graph showing the frequency of *nibble a* vs *nibble on a* in the Google books corpus


To "Nibble" is to bite chips off something, generally with the intention to eat it. "Nibble on" can have a connotation of playfulness, that may or may not include the actual eating.

  • Does this answer the question? Any sources?
    – Xanne
    May 1, 2017 at 22:21

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