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quib +‎ -le. Quib is probably from Latin quibus (in what respect? how?), which appeared frequently in legal documents[1] and came to be suggestive of the verbosity and petty argumentation found therein.


  • IPA(key): /ˈkwɪbəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪbəl


quibble (plural quibbles)

  1. (now rare) A pun. [from 17th c.]
    • 1864, Robert Kemp Philp (editor), The Family Friend (page 54)
      Is it a quibble, or play upon words?
    • 1870, Richard Grant White, The complete works of Shakspere, with a memoir, and essay:
      This is a quibble between council and counsel. The latter word is still used to imply secrecy; as in the phrase, "keep your own counsel."
  2. An objection or argument based on an ambiguity of wording or similar trivial circumstance; a minor complaint. [from 17th c.]
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:dispute
    He harped on his quibble about how the dark red paint should be described as carmine rather than burgundy.
    • 1741, I[saac] Watts, The Improvement of the Mind: Or, A Supplement to the Art of Logick: [], London: [] James Brackstone, [], →OCLC:
      Quibbles [] have no place in the search after truth.
    • 1995 June 27, Michiko Kakutani, “Playing Pygmalion to a Hermeneutic Computer”, in New York Times[1]:
      Toward the end of “Galatea,” there are a few missteps: [] All in all, though, these are minor quibbles.
    • 2020 March 25, “Network News: Passengers offered refunds or switched fares”, in Rail, page 7:
      Essentially, we want a commitment to no-quibble refunds, without admin fees, if people who have already paid decide not to travel because of the virus.



quibble (third-person singular simple present quibbles, present participle quibbling, simple past and past participle quibbled)

  1. (informal, intransitive) To complain or argue in a trivial or petty manner.
    They are constantly quibbling over insignificant details.
  2. (informal, rare, transitive) To contest, especially some trivial issue in a petty manner.
    The customer quibbled the bill.




  1. ^ Wheelock's Latin, Frederic M. Wheelock, 6th ed., p. 115