Word of the Day

captious

audio pronunciation
February 26, 2015
adjective
\KAP-shuss\
Definition
1
: marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections
2
: calculated to confuse, entrap, or entangle in argument
Examples
Befuddled by the captious question, the suspect broke down and confessed to the crime.

"During the past 15 years Mr. Maxwell has established himself as one of the few sui generis voices in experimental theater, and like all truly original talents, he has been subject to varied and captious interpretations." — Ben Brantley, New York Times, October 24, 2012
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Did You Know?
If you suspect that captious is a relative of capture and captivate, you're right. All of those words are related to the Latin verb capere, which means "to take." The direct ancestor of captious is captio, a Latin offspring of capere, which literally means "a taking" but which was also used to mean "a deception" or "a sophistic argument." Arguments labeled "captious" are likely to capture you in a figurative sense; they often entrap through subtly deceptive reasoning or trifling points. A captious individual is one who you might also dub "hypercritical," the sort of carping, censorious critic only too ready to point out minor faults or raise objections on trivial grounds.

Test Your Vocabulary: What litigious name was coined in the 19th century for an argumentative, captious sailor? The answer is …
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