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First attested in 1599. Origin uncertain, but likely borrowed from Norwegian nigla (to be stingy), ultimately from Old Norse hnøggr (stingy; miserly), related to Old English hnēaw (stingy; niggardly). More at niggard.



niggle (plural niggles)

  1. A minor complaint or problem.
    • 2012, The Guardian, London 2012: Christian Taylor aims high as Phillips Idowu stays away, by Anna Kessel
      The Olympic medal contender's back problem has been described as a "niggle" by the head coach, Charles van Commenee, but Porter's friend and former team-mate Danielle Carruthers revealed that the injury is playing on the Briton's mind.
  2. (obsolete) Small, cramped handwriting.


niggle (third-person singular simple present niggles, present participle niggling, simple past and past participle niggled)

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To trifle with; to deceive; to mock.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Beaumont and Fletcher to this entry?)
  2. (transitive) To use, spend, or do in a petty or trifling manner.
  3. (intransitive) To dwell too much on minor points or on trifling details.
  4. (intransitive, chiefly Britain) To fidget, fiddle, be restless.

Derived terms[edit]