Definition of cavil
- The author caviled about the design of the book's cover.
- He caviled the conditions of the agreement.
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I don't intend to cavil or compromise.
A customer caviled about the price.
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."
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