from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To be preoccupied with trifles or petty details.
  • intransitive v. To find fault constantly and trivially; carp. See Synonyms at quibble.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A minor complaint or problem.
  • n. Small, cramped handwriting.
  • v. To trifle with; to deceive; to mock.
  • v. To dwell too much on minor points.
  • v. To fidget, fiddle, be restless.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To trifle or play.
  • intransitive v. To act or walk mincingly.
  • intransitive v. To fret and snarl about trifles.
  • intransitive v.
  • intransitive v. To move about restlessly or without result; to fidget.
  • intransitive v. To be finicky or excessively critical; to potter; esp., to work with excessive care for trifling details, as in painting.
  • transitive v. To trifle with; to deceive; to mock.
  • transitive v. To use, spend, or do in a petty or trifling manner.
  • transitive v. To elaborate excessively, as in art.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To eat sparingly; nibble.
  • To act in a mincing manner; work in a finicking, fussy way.
  • To trifle; be employed in trifling or petty carping.
  • To fret; complain of trifles.
  • . To draw out unwillingly; squeeze out or hand out slyly.
  • To play with contemptuously; make sport or game of; mock; deceive.
  • To fill with excess of details; over-elaborate.
  • n. Small cramped handwriting; a scribble; a scrawl.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. argue over petty things
  • v. worry unnecessarily or excessively


Perhaps of Scandinavian origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested in 1599. Origin uncertain, but likely from Old Norse nigla and/or nugla. Possibly cognate to niggard. (Wiktionary)



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  • I believe we're missing a definition used in the game of European Football. When a player sustains smaller injuries, they are constantly referred to as niggles.

    November 3, 2012

  • niggle a minute, meticulous word

    January 13, 2007

  • "I'm glad we're doing this! It's been niggling at me..."

    January 4, 2007