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Definition an evasion of the point of an argument by raising irrelevant distinctions or objections; or to raise trivial objections
  • My only cavil with...
  • A frequent cavil with Joan is that it's hard to keep up with her.
  • ...the skin, which she had been used to cavil at, as wanting colour, had a clearness and delicacy which really needed no fuller bloom.
    Jane Austen  --  Emma
  • ...all three of the lost men were accounted for, beyond cavil or question.
    Mark Twain  --  A Tramp Abroad
  • Tis love you cavil at; I am not Love.
    Shakespeare  --  Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Writer of this, is one of those few, who never dishonours religion either by ridiculing, or cavilling at any denomination whatsoever.
    Thomas Paine  --  Common Sense
  • (editor's note:  This is a British spelling. Americans do not repeat the "L" prior to adding the "ING".)
  • And for all her infectious lightness of heart, I knew it was an extremely petty cavil that Kitsey never seemed very moved by anything.
    Donna Tartt  --  The Goldfinch
  • "Cavilling, not gravelling," said Don Quixote, "thou prevaricator of honest language, God confound thee!"
    Miguel de Cervantes  --  Don Quixote
  • (editor's note:  This is a British spelling. Americans do not repeat the "L" prior to adding the "ING".)
  • Anne, far from wishing to cavil at the pleasure, replied, "I can easily believe it.
    Jane Austen  --  Persuasion
  • Miss Ophelia felt rather disposed to cavil at this picture, and was laying down her knitting to begin, but St. Clare stopped her.
    Harriet Beecher Stowe  --  Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • "What did we say Simpson's was?" asked Morel; and the butties cavilled for a minute over the dayman's earnings.
    D.H. Lawrence  --  Sons and Lovers
  • (editor's note:  This is a British spelling. Americans do not repeat the "L" prior to adding the "ED".)
  • That's but a cavil; he is old, I young.
    William Shakespeare  --  The Taming of the Shrew
  • I am too gratified to get such a mark of your friendship at any price to cavil at the tone.
    Thomas Hardy  --  Far from the Madding Crowd
  • The count appeared, dressed with the greatest simplicity, but the most fastidious dandy could have found nothing to cavil at in his toilet.
    Alexandre Dumas  --  The Count of Monte Cristo
  • After some little cavil at the word 'sincere,' and asking him if I had ever given him any answers which were not sincere, I promised him I would.
    Daniel Defoe  --  Moll Flanders
  • They ought not to have wandered into inflammatory declamations and unmeaning cavils about the extent of the powers.
    Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, & John Jay  --  The Federalist Papers
  • I do not care: I'll give thrice so much land To any well-deserving friend; But in the way of bargain, mark ye me, I'll cavil on the ninth part of a hair.
    William Shakespeare  --  Henry IV, Part 1
  • 'tis love you cavil at: I am not Love.
    William Shakespeare  --  The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • Nor do I fear that my sensible reader, though most luxurious in his taste, will start, cavil, or be offended, because I have named but one article.
    Henry Fielding  --  Tom Jones
  • Next for thy cavilling Of wrath at mine alliance with a king, Here thou shalt see I both was wise, and free From touch of passion, and a friend to thee Most potent, and my children ....
    Euripides  --  Medea
(editor's note:  This is a British spelling. Americans do not repeat the "L" prior to adding the "ING".)

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