Definition of cavil in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkav(ə)l/

verb (cavils, cavilling, cavilled; US cavils, caviling, caviled)

[no object]
Make petty or unnecessary objections: they cavilled at the cost
More example sentences
  • It's a fantastic achievement - and one in the eye for those who have carped and cavilled about the underperformance of Great Britain's competitors in Athens.
  • They are caviling that inspectors are being recruited from too many countries including Asians and Africans.
  • So, your Honour, I think that is about all I need to say about cavilling or challenging the judgment of Justice Kirby.
criticize, censure, denounce, condemn, decry
informal gripe, beef, bellyache, bitch, whinge, nitpick, pick holes in, split hairs, sound off, kick up a fuss, knock
British informal chunter, create
Northern English informal mither
North American informal kvetch about


A petty or unnecessary objection.
Example sentences
  • But although I sympathise with almost all of what Todorov says, and applaud his achievement in saying it, I have a minor cavil about the way he gets his argument going.
  • Smiley's attempt to root the novel in a specific political climate seems an unnecessary distraction, and a few characters are too broadly typed, but these are minor cavils.
  • These minor cavils notwithstanding, Linder deserves considerable credit for resurrecting this important work and rendering it into such lucid, vigorous English.



Example sentences
  • We don't need any more headstrong, litigious lawyers; we've been groaning under the weight of carpers and cavillers for years.
  • Almost three years on, the carpers and cavillers are still complaining about the huge sums extracted from the telcos in the European 3G spectrum auctions.
  • Frank Hadden has certainly had his detractors down the years, but even his most stringent caviller would have to admit that this is a man who has served his time.


Mid 16th century: from French caviller, from Latin cavillari, from cavilla 'mockery'.

Words that rhyme with cavil

Cavell, gavel, gravel, ravel, travel

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: cavil

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