Word of The Day for Sunday, October 24, 2010


cav•il (kav'-uhl)


1. to raise irritating and trivial objections; find fault with unnecessarily
2. to oppose by inconsequential, frivolous, or sham objections
3. a trivial and annoying objection
4. the raising of such objections

caviled or cavilled past tense and past participle; caviling or cavilling present participle; cavils 3rd person singular present; caviler or caviller noun

Synonyms: carp, quibble, fuss, niggle, nitpick
Related Words:: calumny

• Certainly we ought not to cavil at this ; nor ought we to cavil at music we might consider a little too rapid and incessant, or ornaments we might consider a little florid, if they create in worshippers, especially in poor worshippers, an increased interest in the places in which they worship. But cavil we must, if ritualism goes farther. -1880
• "Are you disposed to cavil at that?" he repeats. "Are you inclined to add yourself to the number of the pack of hounds who are trying to hunt her down for having had the pluck to break those chains of slavery which were forged about her in her childhood, by a man who was base enough to marry her before she knew what love or her own mind was?" -All The Year Round, Charles Dickens

The Storyline
Right on cue, Kurt began to cavil at the still groggy Tyler about the mess he'd made dumping ashes on their thrift-store sofa.

1542; from M.Fr. caviller "to mock, jest," from L. cavillari "to satirize, argue scoffingly," from cavilla "jest, jeering," akin to Latin calvi to deceive

Sources: Dictionary.com, Online Etymology

Why This Word:
Turn on your favorite 24-7 cable new channel an you'll hear the clacking cacophany of the caviling cabal of critics finding fault in the most minute misstep of their appointed opponents. Nattering nabobs of negativity - harumph!
Okay. "Appointed opponents" isn't strictly speaking alliteration. Stop being so caviling.
Whatever it is in the Zeitgeist (perhaps it is fluoridation in the water after all), ours is the age of the cavil. Rather than engage in substantive discussions of some rather serious and consequential matters our political discourse focuses on each minor misstep or perceived misstep or manufactured misstep of "the other side".
It goes without saying, of course, that it isn't caviling when "our side" does it.

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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