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[nig-uh l] /ˈnɪg əl/
verb (used without object), niggled, niggling.
to criticize, especially constantly or repeatedly, in a peevish or petty way; carp:
to niggle about the fine points of interpretation; preferring to niggle rather than take steps to correct a situation.
to spend too much time and effort on inconsequential details:
It's difficult to be meticulous and not niggle.
to work ineffectively; trifle:
to niggle with an uninteresting task.
Origin of niggle
1610-20; < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian nigla to be penurious (ultimately < Old Norse hnøggr stingy, cognate with Old English hnēaw); cf. niggard
Related forms
niggler, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for niggle
Historical Examples
  • The fact is, Mr. niggle, we dont wish to wound your feelings.

    Single Life John Baldwin Buckstone
  • Mr. niggle, the gentleman with whom you saw me yesterday, is my friend.

    Single Life John Baldwin Buckstone
  • niggle, eat in peace and thankfulness; for I have once more saved you from the abyss of matrimony.

    Single Life John Baldwin Buckstone
British Dictionary definitions for niggle


(intransitive) to find fault continually
(intransitive) to be preoccupied with details; fuss
(transitive) to irritate; worry
a slight or trivial objection or complaint
a slight feeling as of misgiving, uncertainty, etc
Derived Forms
niggler, noun
niggly, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Scandinavian; related to Norwegian nigla. Compare niggard
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for niggle

1590s (implied in niggling), possibly from a Scandinavian source (cf. Norwegian dialectal nigla "be busy with trifles"), perhaps related to source of niggard. Related: Niggled; niggling; niggler.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for niggle



  1. To complain
  2. To spend time on inconsequential things; trifle •With niggling as the adjective form: niggle over the details (1886+)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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