- to criticize, especially constantly or repeatedly, in a peevish or petty way; carp: to niggle about the fine points of interpretation; preferring to niggle rather than take steps to correct a situation.
- to spend too much time and effort on inconsequential details: It's difficult to be meticulous and not niggle.
- to work ineffectively; trifle: to niggle with an uninteresting task.
Origin of niggle
1610–20; < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian nigla to be penurious (ultimately < Old Norse hnøggr stingy, cognate with Old English hnēaw); cf. niggard
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for niggle
The fact is, Mr. Niggle, we dont wish to wound your feelings.
Mr. Niggle, the gentleman with whom you saw me yesterday, is my friend.
Niggle, eat in peace and thankfulness; for I have once more saved you from the abyss of matrimony.
- (intr) to find fault continually
- (intr) to be preoccupied with details; fuss
- (tr) to irritate; worry
- a slight or trivial objection or complaint
- a slight feeling as of misgiving, uncertainty, etc
C16: from Scandinavian; related to Norwegian nigla. Compare niggard
Word Origin and History for niggle
1590s (implied in niggling), possibly from a Scandinavian source (cf. Norwegian dialectal nigla "be busy with trifles"), perhaps related to source of niggard. Related: Niggled; niggling; niggler.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper