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

carp, cavil, fuss, nitpick, quibble

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Examples of niggle in a Sentence


She had been niggled by worry her entire life. He's always niggling over small details.


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

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 Thank you for the clarification … this question has niggled at me for a long time. Joan Morris, The Mercury News, "Are hummingbirds getting hypothermia from chilled nectar?," 2 Feb. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Some of those changes were enforced through a number of injury niggles and fitness doubts in the Arsenal squad., "Arsenal vs West Ham Preview: Recent Form, Previous Encounter, Team News and Prediction," 21 Apr. 2018 After playing a cameo role for 10-man Colombia in a 2-1 opening defeat to Japan due to a calf injury niggle, Rodriguez returned to the fray for a decisive performance in their 3-0 win over Poland. Afp,, "Pekerman: 'I'm extremely concerned' about possible Rodriguez injury," 28 June 2018 The infection left me with limited mobility in my ankle, resulting in a rather awkward stride that caused new niggles in my knees and hips. Allison Pattillo,, "What Almost Losing My Leg Taught Me About Grit and Grace," 5 Apr. 2018 Alistair is four-and-a-half months into his rehabilitation from hip surgery while Jonny, bar the odd niggle, has come through winter training relatively unscathed. Matt Majendie, CNN, "Commonwealth Games: How viral moment redefined the Brownlee brothers," 19 Dec. 2017 Torino are without star Nigerian midfielder Joel Obi, who won't return until the end of the month after picking up a hamstring niggle at the start of the season., "Juventus vs Torino Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battle, Potential Lineups & More," 22 Sep. 2017

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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Statistics for niggle

Last Updated

4 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for niggle

The first known use of niggle was in 1599

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More Definitions for niggle



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

More from Merriam-Webster on niggle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with niggle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for niggle

Britannica English: Translation of niggle for Arabic Speakers

Comments on niggle

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


readily or continually undergoing change

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