AskDefine | Define nitpick

Dictionary Definition

nitpick v : be overly critical; criticize minor details

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From nit + pick (see sense 1)

Pronunciation

  • /ˈnɪt.pɪk/

Verb

  1. In the context of "literal": To pick nits - lice eggs - from someone’s hair.
    Watch the mother gorrilla nitpick the baby’s fur clean.
  2. To correct minutiae or find fault in unimportant details; to kvetch.
    Someone will invariably nitpick about any spelling error posted to the forums.

Synonyms

Translations

to pick nits
to correct minutiae or find fault

Extensive Definition

Nitpicking is the act of removing nits (the eggs of lice, generally head lice) from the host's hair. As the nits are cemented to individual hairs with louse saliva, they cannot be removed with lice combs and, before modern chemical methods were invented, the only options were to shave all the host's hair or to pick them free one by one.
This is a slow and laborious process, as the root of each individual hair must be examined for infestation. It was largely abandoned as modern chemical methods became available; however, as lice populations can and do develop resistance, manual nitpicking is still often necessary.
As nitpicking inherently requires fastidious, meticulous attention to detail, the term has become appropriated to describe the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors in detail (often referred to as "nits" as well), and then criticising them. "Nitpicker" in this sense was often used after 1951, predominantly in the United States.
nitpick in Dutch: Mierenneuken

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

around the bush, beat about, beg the question, bicker, boggle, carp, catch at straws, cavil, choplogic, cut up, dodge, equivocate, evade, evade the issue, fault-find, fence, find fault, hedge, mystify, obscure, palter, parry, pettifog, pick holes, pick nits, pick to pieces, prevaricate, pull apart, pull to pieces, pussyfoot, quibble, shift, shuffle, shy, sidestep, split hairs, take exception, tear apart, tear to pieces, tergiversate
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