To pay off a debt in a smaller denomination of currency than the loan was originally made in, thus leaving the creditor with small change where he once had a note.
Often the small change, if accepted by the creditor, disappears on trivial purchases before the full loan is re-paid, meaning he never really recovers the debt's full worth.
Tom: Here's 10p for you, Mike. Now I only owe you £19.90p.
Mike: Hey - I told you when I lent you the money that I wouldn't stand chivelling. The smallest I will accept are £10 notes.
Tom: Ok Mike, I'm sorry. I'll never chivel a debt again.
To chip away at something slowly.As if one were hewing a large stone as a sculptor would
Q. "How is the . dissertation going?"
A. " Slowly, I keep chivelling away at it."