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

Other Words from cavil

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

Synonyms for cavil


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 As much as Republicans want to cavil about the efficiency of state government, the truth is that the healthcare system in place now is the very antithesis of effectiveness and efficiency. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 14 Jan. 2022 However, the actual interiors of this four-bedroom home are nothing to cavil at. Kelly Corbett, House Beautiful, 7 Oct. 2020

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

Learn More About cavil

Listen to Our Podcast About cavil

Dictionary Entries Near cavil




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for cavil

Cite this Entry

“Cavil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!