Definitions

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

  • adj. Marked by a disposition to find and point out trivial faults: a captious scholar.
  • adj. Intended to entrap or confuse, as in an argument: a captious question.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. That captures; especially, (of an argument, words etc.) designed to capture or entrap in misleading arguments; sophistical.
  • adj. Having a disposition to find fault unreasonably or to raise petty objections; cavilling, nitpicky

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Apt to catch at faults; disposed to find fault or to cavil; eager to object; difficult to please.
  • adj. Fitted to harass, perplex, or insnare; insidious; troublesome.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Apt to notice and make much of unimportant faults or defects; disposed to find fault or raise objections; prone to cavil; difficult to please; faultfinding; touchy: as, a captious man.
  • Proceeding from a faultfinding or caviling disposition; fitted to harass or perplex; censorious; carping; hence, insidious; crafty: as, a captious question.
  • Capable of receiving; capacious.
  • Insnaring; captivating.
  • Synonyms Captious, Carping, Caviling, faultfinding, hypercritical, crabbed, testy, pettish, splenetic, all express unamiable temper and behavior, with wrongheadedness. Captious expresses a disposition to catch at little or inoffensive things, and magnify them into great defects, affronts, etc. Carping is a strong word noting faultfinding that is both unreasonable and unceasing; it applies more to criticism on conduct, while caviling applies to objections to arguments, opinions, and the like: as, it is easier to cavil than to disprove. See petulant.

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

  • adj. tending to find and call attention to faults

Etymologies

Middle English capcious, from Old French captieux, from Latin captiōsus, from captiō, seizure, sophism, from captus, past participle of capere, to seize.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle English capcious, from Middle French captieux, or its source, Latin captiōsus, from captiōnem. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • 'Well, my lord, I don't think I could be called captious for saying that the world has not gone over well with me.'

    Lord Kilgobbin

  • Those interchanges have ranged from the thoughtful interplay of ideas and differing points of view, to the captious arguments of those whose only apparent mission in life is to dismiss anything or anyone pointing a way forward.

    Russell Bishop: What We Need Are A Few Good Cynics

  • The authorities were quietly allowing others to occupy similar parcels—chiefly dam worker families whom Young judged “quiet, good people” and whose occupancy “we have informally suffered ... in order not to be oppressive, unreasonable, or captious in our treatment of good citizens.”

    Colossus

  • While the three young people kept a conversation going, Varian wondered, as she set the sled on its baseward course, just what happened to occasion Dimenon's captious attitude.

    Cattle Town

  • Maybe it's the long, boring haul back from swine flu that's making me captious - see earlier post - but I am afraid that Sam Mendes is going to have get an e-kicking today.

    Smoking Guns and the Morality of Parliamentary Privilege

  • And he wasn't sure about how a Marx Brothers movie could resolve existential anxiety so fully, but seemed too captious to mention.

    The Guerilla Drive-In

  • But maybe that's because Greg Sargent's question is based on a captious and stingy premise.

    Hillary's Closer -- A Big Moment, Or Not Enough?

  • You guys (in the comment thread) are hopelessly captious and stingy.

    Hillary's Closer -- A Big Moment, Or Not Enough?

  • I find it outrageous to raise such captious discussions under the current circumstances.

    Earthquake Warning Was Removed From Internet - The Lede Blog - NYTimes.com

  • Patrick was completely enamored of the new science of forensics, and kept his department absolutely up to date on all advances made in that captious discipline, with its blood types, serums, hairs, fibers, anything that a criminal might leave behind as a signature.

    TOO MANY MURDERS

Comments

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  • Dictionary.com defines as

    1. apt to notice and make much of trivial faults or defects; faultfinding; difficult to please.
    2. proceeding from a faultfinding or caviling disposition: He could never praise without adding a captious remark.
    3. apt or designed to ensnare or perplex, esp. in argument: captious questions.

    I thought it meant you're full of shit, full of excuses but I was wrong

    April 23, 2009

  • "They made a great pet of the creature—naturally, it was called Fiddle. Though it remained bad-tempered, captious, and unfriendly, it never went short of food."
    -- Diana Wynne Jones, Charmed Life, in The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (p 16)

    January 29, 2008

  • "He grew by degrees less civil, put on more of the Master, frequently found fault, was captious and seem'd ready for an Out-breaking." - Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of B.F. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 110.

    October 21, 2007

  • "… our amour propre is so excessively sensitive, and so captious, that it is almost impossible that one word said about us in our absence, if it is faithfully reported to us, should not seem to us unworthy or hardly worthy of us, and not sting us." – Giacomo Leopardi, Thoughts, tr. J. G. Nichols (London: Hesperus, 2002), p. 33 (#41).

    June 4, 2007