• An objection seen as petty or unnecessary.


  • Make petty or unnecessary objections.

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Example Sentences

“My mother is easy to please, but my father likes to cavil with contractors about minor issues.”

“I didn’t want to cavil about where to sit, so I gave up my seat to the new guests.”

“You think these issues are important now, but in 20 years, they’ll be cavils.”

Word Origin

French, mid-16th century

Why this word?

Whether you’re using “cavil” as a verb or a noun, an argument is at play. To cavil is to engage in a fight over trivialities or petty concerns; these objections themselves also can be called cavils. It comes from the Latin “cavilla,” meaning “banter in jest,” but as the word came through Old French into Middle English, it lost the banter and turned into a petty argument. In one of its earliest recorded uses, Shakespeare used “cavill” in “The Taming of the Shrew,” in a scene where Tranio (disguised as Lucretio) is competing with another suitor. In response to a question from Bianca’s father about his suitability, he says, “That’s but a cavil. He is old, I young.”

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