nig·​gle | \ ˈni-gəl How to pronounce niggle (audio) \
niggled; niggling\ ˈni-​g(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce niggling (audio) \

Definition of niggle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : trifle
b : to spend too much effort on minor details
2 : to find fault constantly in a petty way : carp she haggles, she niggles, she wears out our patience— Virginia Woolf
3 : gnaw

transitive verb

: to give stingily or in tiny portions



Definition of niggle (Entry 2 of 2)

chiefly British
: a trifling doubt, objection, or complaint

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Other Words from niggle


niggler \ ˈni-​g(ə-​)lər How to pronounce niggler (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for niggle

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of niggle in a Sentence

Verb She had been niggled by worry her entire life. He's always niggling over small details. Noun I've had a knee niggle for the past few days. He has a bit of a niggle in his back. I have a few minor niggles about the performance.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb That said, without examples of what the ERA might change, the accusations of its largely symbolic status — lodged by some of the characters in the series — continue to niggle. Inkoo Kang, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Mrs. America': TV Review," 2 Apr. 2020 Something about this might niggle at the back of the mind as the hours go by. Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times, "My 27-Hour Vacation in Singapore’s Changi Airport," 2 Dec. 2019 Stocksy As a result, a food bully niggles a friend into ordering her way to justify her own decisions. Diane Stopyra, Marie Claire, "Let Them Eat Cake (And Whatever Else They Want)," 24 May 2019 As a result, a food bully niggles a friend into ordering her way to justify her own decisions. Diane Stopyra, Marie Claire, "Let Them Eat Cake (And Whatever Else They Want)," 24 May 2019 While her teammates niggled and nudged to frustrate England, her method was more classical., "England 1-0 Argentina: Jodie Taylor Strike Earns Lionesses Nervy Win in Physical Clash," 14 June 2019 The 29-year-old England international, who has once more seen his season disrupted by niggling fitness problems, would boost Chelsea's small squad, with games set to keep coming thick and fast over the next few weeks and months., "West Ham Fear Andy Carroll Has Had His 'Head Turned' by Rumoured Chelsea Interest," 16 Jan. 2018 With City skipper Vincent Kompany still being hampered by niggling injuries, John Stones recuperating from a hamstring strain and Eliaquim Mangala not rated by the Spaniard, the current league leaders are eager to bolster their defensive ranks., "Van Dijk Future Uncertain as Contrasting Reports Link Saints Ace With Man City & Liverpool Moves," 26 Dec. 2017 That is because government watchdogs don’t niggle small business lenders for allowing discretionary overrides or customizing credit scoring. Amar Bhidé, WSJ, "Equifax Critics Are Missing the Bigger Point," 13 Sep. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Many people have adapted by taking up meditation or mindfulness, and in the process have made peace with the doubts and self-criticism that niggle at the back of their brains. oregonlive, "What will return and what won’t when Oregon and rest of U.S. reopen to a ‘new normal’?," 27 Apr. 2020 Leandro Trossard, who created Lucas Digne's dramatic late own goal in the victory over Everton, is in contention to start for Brighton despite picking up a niggle, while wing-back Ezequiel Scholetto could also be in contention for a start., "Brighton vs Norwich Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News," 30 Oct. 2019 The England international made just 16 appearance last season as he was hampered by various knocks and niggles, failing to score or assist., "Time Could Be Up at Liverpool For Midfielder Adam Lallana," 17 Oct. 2019 For those that can set niggles aside, there's a lot to Ad Astra. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Ad Astra: A journey upriver to meet your demons, internal and otherwise," 20 Sep. 2019 Newcastle will have Joelinton and Miguel Almiron back for the game against Watford after missing the Leicester game with niggles., "Newcastle vs Watford Preview: Where to Watch, Buy Tickets, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News," 29 Aug. 2019 This points to a second niggle: Amazon’s rivals are crying foul. The Economist, "Amazon is eyeing billions in federal contracts," 11 July 2019 Unexpectedly, seven months of enforced rest during pregnancy, and physiotherapy for pelvic misalignment and pain, dealt with my niggles. The Economist, "For women, running is still an act of defiance," 28 June 2019 But the love for the property’s aesthetics overrode the niggles. Chandrima Pal, Quartz India, "How a group of investors are preserving Kolkata’s architectural legacy," 12 June 2019

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

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First Known Use of niggle


1599, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1865, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for niggle


origin unknown

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Time Traveler for niggle

Time Traveler

The first known use of niggle was in 1599

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Statistics for niggle

Cite this Entry

“Niggle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for niggle


How to pronounce niggle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of niggle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to worry or annoy (someone)
: to argue or make criticisms about something that is not important



English Language Learners Definition of niggle (Entry 2 of 2)

chiefly British
: a slight feeling of something (such as doubt)
: a slight pain
: a small criticism or complaint

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More from Merriam-Webster on niggle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for niggle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with niggle

Britannica English: Translation of niggle for Arabic Speakers

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