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SAT vocabulary: cavil

cavil

What does “cavil” mean?

Part of Speech: VERB and NOUN

Pronunciations: IPA: /ˈkæ.vəl/ Glossary-style: [KAH-vuhl]

Definition: verb: complain about unimportant things, especially in order to avoid the point of an argument; raise trivial or frivolous objections to an argument (Ex: to cavil about unimportant details). noun: complaint or criticism, often minor or trivial.

Example: The customer, trying to haggle with the salesperson over the price of the television set, started caviling over the color of the cables, whether anyone would help him carry the box to his car, and whether it would match the décor of his living room.

Discussion: To cavil is simply to argue about things that don’t matter that much, especially when you’re trying to avoid the major point. For example, if you know you’re losing an argument, you might start caviling about tangential, frivolous, or irrelevant details. “cavil” can also be a noun meaning trivial objections, or small things that don’t matter that much, at least in the grand scheme of things. For example, if you’re in a bad mood, feeling grumpy, grouchy, or irritable, you might have many cavils, e.g., “It’s too hot in here!” “I’m hungry!” “I want a straw with my water!” and on and on.

By Erin Billy

Founder of TestMagic, Inc. in San Francisco, USA.

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