Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To cause one to be persistently preoccupied, annoyed, or uncomfortable.
  • intransitive verb To pester someone or be annoying or uncomfortable in a persistent way.
  • intransitive verb To be overly concerned or argumentative, especially about something petty; fuss.
  • intransitive verb To preoccupy, annoy, make uncomfortable in a persistent way.
  • intransitive verb To pester or nag (someone).

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To eat sparingly; nibble.
  • To act in a mincing manner; work in a finicking, fussy way.
  • To trifle; be employed in trifling or petty carping.
  • To fret; complain of trifles.
  • . To draw out unwillingly; squeeze out or hand out slyly.
  • To play with contemptuously; make sport or game of; mock; deceive.
  • To fill with excess of details; over-elaborate.
  • noun Small cramped handwriting; a scribble; a scrawl.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To trifle or play.
  • intransitive verb Prov. Eng. To act or walk mincingly.
  • intransitive verb Prov. Eng. To fret and snarl about trifles.
  • intransitive verb To move about restlessly or without result; to fidget.
  • intransitive verb To be finicky or excessively critical; to potter; esp., to work with excessive care for trifling details, as in painting.
  • transitive verb To use, spend, or do in a petty or trifling manner.
  • transitive verb To elaborate excessively, as in art.
  • transitive verb obsolete To trifle with; to deceive; to mock.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A minor complaint or problem.
  • noun obsolete Small, cramped handwriting.
  • verb To trifle with; to deceive; to mock.
  • verb To dwell too much on minor points.
  • verb To fidget, fiddle, be restless.

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

  • verb argue over petty things
  • verb worry unnecessarily or excessively

Etymologies

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

[Perhaps of Scandinavian origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

First attested in 1599. Origin uncertain, but likely from Old Norse nigla and/or nugla. Possibly cognate to niggard.

Examples

Comments

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  • "I'm glad we're doing this! It's been niggling at me..."

    January 4, 2007

  • niggle a minute, meticulous word

    January 13, 2007

  • I believe we're missing a definition used in the game of European Football. When a player sustains smaller injuries, they are constantly referred to as niggles.

    November 3, 2012