Definition of cavil in English:



  • Make petty or unnecessary objections.

    ‘they caviled at the cost’
    • ‘However much critics may cavil, audiences seem happy.’
    • ‘This is part of the child/parent relationship and in the ideal family, the children won't cavil at this.’
    • ‘Ancona is especially fed up with critics who cavil that ‘if you're doing impressions, you're not acting’.’
    • ‘They are caviling that inspectors are being recruited from too many countries including Asians and Africans.’
    • ‘Purists may cavil at the liberties taken with scientific objectivity, but as a memoirist, he is a mensch, a prince among primates.’
    • ‘So much is here that it would be absurd to cavil about exclusions; and considering the challenge Ferriter has set himself, the odd chronological infelicity can be easily accommodated.’
    • ‘The most devoted supporter of the right to bear arms might still cavil at the thought of arms caches under the beds of active enemies.’
    • ‘Given the existing imbalances in the US economy, one would have thought that the foreign exchange markets would have cavilled at the implications of this document.’
    • ‘It's mean to cavil over the shortcomings of a product that's given away for free but I find the installation documentation dense and obscure, filled with traps for the unwary.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The opening poem, for example, Durer, Innsbruck, 1495, despite an occasional lapse which criticism might cavil at, is a very fine poem which would do credit to any anthology and to most poets.’
    • ‘I could cavil at little details, but why should I?’
    • ‘I'm not suggesting that research should not proceed, but rather cavilling at the sometimes thoughtless way it has been presented to the public.’
    • ‘It is a little late for them to cavil about the details having delayed 11 years on delivering it.’
    • ‘But while some may cavil at this, others may think it gives The Making Of Scotland character and a certain naive charm.’
    • ‘So, your Honour, I think that is about all I need to say about cavilling or challenging the judgment of Justice Kirby.’
    • ‘My only gripe, and who am I to cavil at Shakespeare, is that Pacino and Irons do such a good job that the jiggery pokery at the end about rings and sworn faithfulness seems an irritant.’
    • ‘Since he is prepared to do this, there is nothing that he cannot do: his ranks of craven, sycophantic backbenchers will not cavil at anything he says.’
    • ‘No one cavilled with her Honour's rejection of the evidence of the bus driver.’
    • ‘Many soreheads and unsympathetic people will probably cavil that this is pretty darn cool and lots of people don't get to go to Australia and experience such a beautiful land and have all these wonderful adventures.’
    complain, carp, grumble, moan, grouse, grouch, whine, bleat, find fault with, quibble about, niggle about
    criticize, censure, denounce, condemn, decry
    gripe, beef, bellyache, bitch, whinge, nitpick, pick holes in, split hairs, sound off, kick up a fuss, knock
    chunter, create
    kvetch about
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  • An objection seen as petty or unnecessary.

    • ‘His only cavils are the notoriously short battery life of PDA-phone combination devices, and the screen's relative dimness in bright sunlight - but in all other light conditions, he says, the screen is crisp and readable.’
    • ‘Such small cavils apart, Devine's scheme is just what schools need, to substitute coherent teaching for the present pick-'n'-mix.’
    • ‘But these are cavils and, at root, only the difference between fact and a greater, truth-telling fiction.’
    • ‘My only cavil, and this is one I level against many restaurants, is that there is a separate charge for bread which, as you are given no option to refuse it, becomes a cover charge by another name.’
    • ‘My only cavil is that Rachel Blues's design has none of the ‘dinginess ‘specified in the stage directions.’’
    • ‘But these are cavils: this is one of the great books of art-historical thought.’
    • ‘These cavils aside, it deserves to be seen as the cast, on the whole, make the evening a worthwhile, experience and it is not their fault that the authors have not provided them with better material.’
    • ‘But these are minor cavils compared to my problems with what the hypothesis seeks to do with these assumptions.’
    • ‘Some additional cavils are worth mentioning, but they don't detract from what this fine work has to offer.’
    • ‘My only cavil is the short playing time of this CD.’
    • ‘This cavil aside, the exhibition is a well-paced and absorbing study of the most influential exponent of an under-rated decorative art form.’
    • ‘However, these cavils aside, this is a very charming and delightful production and one which, as I have indicated, goes a long way to obliterate the memories of the past.’
    • ‘The boundless approval of the grandchildren stilled any adult cavils about taste and decency.’
    • ‘But these are minor cavils in the face of the impressive achievements of women artists from all over the world, working in every medium and in a multiplicity of styles and expressive contexts.’
    • ‘Having said that, however - and recommending that you read other reviewers' previous raves to get a fuller idea of the film - I have some minor cavils to share.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The only cavil is that some of the extracts are on the miserly side and, from the bibliography, it is clear that the complete versions are unlikely to be available in Britain.’
    • ‘These minor cavils notwithstanding, Linder deserves considerable credit for resurrecting this important work and rendering it into such lucid, vigorous English.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Despite all such cavils, this is a work of uncommon gracefulness that repays repeated reading and viewing.’
    protest, protestation, demur, demurrer, remonstrance, remonstration, exception, complaint, grievance, moan, grumble, grouse, cavil, quibble, expostulation
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Mid 16th century: from French caviller, from Latin cavillari, from cavilla mockery.