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[nig-uh l]
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verb (used without object), nig·gled, nig·gling.
  1. 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.
  2. to spend too much time and effort on inconsequential details: It's difficult to be meticulous and not niggle.
  3. to work ineffectively; trifle: to niggle with an uninteresting task.
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Origin of niggle

1610–20; < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian nigla to be penurious (ultimately < Old Norse hnøggr stingy, cognate with Old English hnēaw); cf. niggard
Related formsnig·gler, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for niggle

Historical Examples

  • The fact is, Mr. Niggle, we dont wish to wound your feelings.

    Single Life

    John Baldwin Buckstone

  • Mr. Niggle, the gentleman with whom you saw me yesterday, is my friend.

    Single Life

    John Baldwin Buckstone

  • Niggle, eat in peace and thankfulness; for I have once more saved you from the abyss of matrimony.

    Single Life

    John Baldwin Buckstone

British Dictionary definitions for niggle


  1. (intr) to find fault continually
  2. (intr) to be preoccupied with details; fuss
  3. (tr) to irritate; worry
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  1. a slight or trivial objection or complaint
  2. a slight feeling as of misgiving, uncertainty, etc
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Derived Formsniggler, nounniggly, adjective

Word Origin

C16: from Scandinavian; related to Norwegian nigla. Compare niggard
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 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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper