- 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
- (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 niggler
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