Definition of captious
- captious critics
- a captious rivalry
- a captious question
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a captious and cranky eater who's never met a vegetable he didn't hate
If you suspect that captious is a relative of capture and captivate, you're right. All of those words are related to the Latin verb capere, which means "to take." The direct ancestor of captious is captio, a Latin offspring of capere, which literally means "a taking" but which was also used to mean "a deception" or "a sophistic argument." Arguments labeled "captious" are likely to capture you in a figurative sense; they often entrap through subtly deceptive reasoning or trifling points. A captious individual is one who you might also dub "hypercritical," the sort of carping, censorious critic only too ready to point out minor faults or raise objections on trivial grounds.
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Confusing Words—A Quiz