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See more synonyms for cavil on Thesaurus.com
verb (used without object), cav·iled, cav·il·ing or (especially British) cav·illed, cav·il·ling.
  1. to raise irritating and trivial objections; find fault with unnecessarily (usually followed by at or about): He finds something to cavil at in everything I say.
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verb (used with object), cav·iled, cav·il·ing or (especially British) cav·illed, cav·il·ling.
  1. to oppose by inconsequential, frivolous, or sham objections: to cavil each item of a proposed agenda.
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  1. a trivial and annoying objection.
  2. the raising of such objections.
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Origin of cavil

1540–50; < Latin cavillārī to jeer, scoff, quibble, verbal derivative of cavilla jesting, banter
Related formscav·il·er; especially British, cav·il·ler, nouncav·il·ing·ly; especially British, cav·il·ling·ly, adverbout·cav·il, verb (used with object), out·cav·iled, out·cav·il·ing or (especially British) out·cav·illed, out·cav·il·ling.un·cav·il·ing, adjectiveun·cav·il·ling, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for cavilling

Historical Examples

  • I have no taste for cavilling or grumbling over events that are past.

    Khartoum Campaign, 1898

    Bennet Burleigh

  • But the moment we pass the portal all cavilling is awed to silence.

    Northern Spain

    Edgar T. A. Wigram

  • I do think, dear, you are only cavilling and making difficulties.

    A Likely Story

    William De Morgan

  • "Shadow-boxing," he observed in a cavilling spirit to his companion.

  • A man's life was a man's life, and what was the use of cavilling at facts!

    Cape of Storms

    Percival Pollard

British Dictionary definitions for cavilling


verb -ils, -illing or -illed or US -ils, -iling or -iled
  1. (intr; foll by at or about) to raise annoying petty objections; quibble; carp
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  1. a captious trifling objection
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Derived Formscaviller, nouncavilling, adjective

Word Origin

C16: from Old French caviller, from Latin cavillārī to jeer, from cavilla raillery
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cavilling



1540s, from Middle French caviller "to mock, jest," from Latin cavillari "to jeer, mock; satirize, argue scoffingly" (also source of Italian cavillare, Spanish cavilar), from cavilla "jest, jeering," related to calumnia (see calumny).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper