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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:
      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.
    • 1784, William Cowper, "A Review of Schools", in Poems, 1859 ed., page 219:
      A captious question, sir, and yours is one, / Deserves an answer similar, or none.
    • 1815, 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?
  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.


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