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From Middle English capcious, from Middle French captieux, or its source, Latin captiōsus, from captiō.



captious (comparative more captious, superlative most captious)

  1. (obsolete) That captures; especially, (of an argument, words etc.) designed to capture or entrap in misleading arguments; sophistical.
    • 1605, William Shakespeare, All's Well that Ends Well, Act I, scene i, page 234:
      [] I know I loue in vaine, ſtriue againſt hope : / Yet in this captious, and intemible Siue / I ſtill poure in the waters of my loue / And lacke not to looſe ſtill []
    • 1786, William Cowper, “Tirocinium: Or, A Review of Schools”, in Poems[1], volume II, 2nd edition, London: J. Johnson, page 338:
      A captious queſtion, Sir, and your’s is one, / Deſerves an anſwer ſimilar, or none.
    • 1815 March 24, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “To William Lisle Bowles”, in Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 2000 Oxford ed. edition, →ISBN, page 558:
      Were you aware that in your discourse last Sunday you attributed the captious Problem of the Sadducees to the Pharisees, as a proof of the obscure and sensual doctrines of the latter?
    Synonyms: tricky, thorny, sophistical
  2. Having a disposition to find fault unreasonably or to raise petty objections; cavilling, nitpicky.
    • 1968, Sidney Monas, translating Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (1866):
      But Peter Petrovich did not accept this retort. On the contrary, he became all the more captious and irritable, as though he were just hitting his stride.
    • 2009, Anne Karpf, The Guardian, 24 Jan 2009:
      The "Our Bold" column, nitpicking at errors in other periodicals, can look merely captious, and its critics often seem to be wildly and collectively wrong-headed.
    Synonyms: carping, critical, faultfinding, hypercritical, nitpicky

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