Try Our Apps


90s Slang You Should Know


[hair-split-ing] /ˈhɛərˌsplɪt ɪŋ/
the making of unnecessarily fine distinctions.
characterized by such distinctions:
the hairsplitting arguments of a political debate.
Origin of hairsplitting
First recorded in 1820-30; hair + splitting
Related forms
hairsplitter, noun
2. quibbling, niggling, nitpicking, captious. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for hair-splitting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • After the world of politics, with its hair-splitting and word-mincing, it was good to be with soldiers—the men who do the work.

    The Relief of Mafeking Filson Young
  • I know your hair-splitting habit; I at once anticipate your reply.

  • To those who oppose him in political matters he is prepared, without any hair-splitting, to give a regular good wigging all round.

  • But he disliked the corrupt method of his countrymen, who indulged in hair-splitting, casuistry, and subtleties.

  • We should have no sort of use for the hair-splitting experts who presided and argued in your courts.

    Looking Backward Edward Bellamy
  • The man who goes to law surrenders his liberty of action and becomes the sport of chicaning lawyers and hair-splitting judges.

    Mr. Fortescue William Westall
  • It requires "hair-splitting" to measure a millionth part of an inch, and in certain cases it is worth while.

    Sketches of the Covenanters J. C. McFeeters
  • It will not be worth our while to wade through all the technical and hair-splitting discussions of these points.

  • The period of pedantry, of hair-splitting, of slavery to mere technicalities, came very late in Jewish history.

    The Astronomy of the Bible E. Walter Maunder
British Dictionary definitions for hair-splitting


the making of petty distinctions
occupied with or based on petty distinctions
Derived Forms
hairsplitter, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for hair-splitting

"making over-nice distinctions," by 1739, from hair + verbal noun from split (v.). To split hairs "make over-fine distinctions" is first recorded 1650s, as to cut the hair. Hair also being 18c. slang for "female pudendum," hair-splitter was noted in 1811 as slang for "penis."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for hairsplitting

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for hair

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for hair-splitting