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(pronounced kap-shus)  adjective


1. characterized by a ready tendency to find trivial faults; fond of raising objections on even the pettiest grounds; faultfinding; niggling; over-exacting. 2. designed to entrap, confuse, or ensnare in argument.

Main Example

  • The new movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is, without a doubt, filmmaking at its best. No wonder it won the Golden Globe award for best picture--drama, beating out some tough competition, and has collected seven Oscar nominations, including that for best picture. But, you can bet there is at least one captious film critic somewhere who will find fault with even this masterpiece.

Workplace Examples

  • It seems that our VP was not his usual self during today’s quarterly sales review, finding fault with almost all of the presentations that were made by my team. I wonder what made him so snappish, so captious?
  • Have you noticed that Sandra’s praise is never outright and unambiguous? Instead, it’s almost always sort of grudging. For instance, while evaluating Kathy’s speech, each time she said something complimentary, it was immediately followed by a captious remark, as in “Kathy, you spoke with zest and enthusiasm, but often launched into such a high rate of speaking that it was hard for me to keep up.” Another one: “Great title, Kathy, except that you didn’t repeat it enough during the body of the speech.”

Other Examples

  • a colleague saying: “Here’s my take on why a few of Hank’s peers have become critics--captious critics, if you will--of his work: since Hank is constantly winning high praise from top management, thanks to his being such an extraordinary strategic planner, it is fueling resentment among some of the folks here.”
  • giving advice to someone about to make a presentation: “If Al, our controller, asks you something during the Q&A, be circumspect when replying. The way he phrases some of his questions, one is almost seduced into saying “yes” but in reality those questions are designed to entrap. They are captious.”
  • discussing “No Country for Old Men,” winner of the 2007 Oscar for best picture, this author saying: “A great film, no doubt, and a searing commentary on the mindless killing being caused by drug trafficking, but yes, I do have one criticism which I’m sure many of you will dismiss as being captious: the way the evil character played by Javier Bardem is able to coolly walk around in hotels, motels, and office buildings carrying a large, very conspicuous firearm, killing people at will, I thought to be much too implausible. It strained credulity.”
  • a captious Wall Street analyst who expresses reservations about even the most well thought out plans of companies, thus trying to give the impression that he is exceedingly smart and can detect problems that other analysts have missed

© 2018 V.J. Singal
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