cav·​il | \ ˈka-vəl How to pronounce cavil (audio) \
caviled or cavilled; caviling or cavilling\ ˈka-​və-​liŋ How to pronounce cavilling (audio) , ˈkav-​liŋ \

Definition of cavil

intransitive verb

: to raise trivial and frivolous objection The author caviled about the design of the book's cover.

transitive verb

: to raise trivial objections to He caviled the conditions of the agreement.

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Other Words from cavil

cavil noun
caviler or caviller \ ˈka-​və-​lər How to pronounce caviller (audio) , ˈkav-​lər \ noun

Synonyms for cavil


carp, fuss, niggle, nitpick, quibble

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Did You Know?

You must be joking! That's just one of the things you might be tempted to exclaim if you found yourself quarreling with a caviler - and you'd be right, etymologically speaking at least. Cavil derives from the Latin verb cavillari, meaning "to jest" or "to raise silly objections," which in turn derives from the Latin noun cavilla, meaning "raillery." In case you're wondering, "cavil" is not related to the adjective "cavalier" ("marked by or given to offhand and often disdainful dismissal of important matters"). "Cavalier," which is also a noun for a gentleman trained in arms and horsemanship, traces back via Middle French to the Late Latin caballarius, meaning "horseman."

Examples of cavil in a Sentence

I don't intend to cavil or compromise. A customer caviled about the price.

Recent Examples on the Web

The Democrats cavil over whether to support the single-payer health-care system embraced by Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and the Left. Matthew Continetti, National Review, "The Irrelevant Democrats," 2 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cavil.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of cavil

1542, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for cavil

Latin cavillari to jest, cavil, from cavilla raillery; akin to Latin calvi to deceive — more at calumny

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Time Traveler for cavil

The first known use of cavil was in 1542

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More Definitions for cavil



English Language Learners Definition of cavil

formal : to complain about things that are not important

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Comments on cavil

What made you want to look up cavil? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


concealment of treason or felony

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