petty; trivial; inconsequential: to quibble about a niggling difference in terminology.
demanding too much care, attention, time, etc.: niggling chores about the house.

Nearby words

  1. nigger,
  2. nigger heaven,
  3. nigger of the narcissus, the,
  4. niggerhead,
  5. niggle,
  6. nigglingly,
  7. nigh,
  8. night,
  9. night and day,
  10. night blindness

Origin of niggling

First recorded in 1590–1600; niggle + -ing2

Related formsnig·gling·ly, adverb


[nig-uh l]

verb (used without object), nig·gled, nig·gling.

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

Related formsnig·gler, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for niggling

  • Niggling, trifling, or idling; taking short steps in walking.

    The Slang Dictionary|John Camden Hotten

British Dictionary definitions for niggling



requiring painstaking work
persistently troublinga niggling back pain


an act or instance of niggling
Derived Formsnigglingly, adverb



(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
Derived Formsniggler, nounniggly, adjective

Word Origin for niggle

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 niggling



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