- to bicker or quibble over trifles or unimportant matters.
- to carry on a petty, shifty, or unethical law business.
- to practice chicanery of any sort.
Origin of pettifog
Examples from the Web for pettifogger
Bear witness, I pray you all,” said the Pettifogger, “as to what the knave called me.The Sleeping Bard
I never said you were a pettifogger, or a scoundrel; but I did say you were little Else.The Jest Book
He was a pettifogger; their (the Smiths') cat-paw to do their dirty work.The Story of the Mormons
William Alexander Linn
Now which was the best pedigree, that of the son of the pastry-cook, or that of the son of the pettifogger?
Now, which was the best pedigree, that of the son of the pastry-cook, or that of the son of the pettifogger?
- a lawyer of inferior status who conducts unimportant cases, esp one who is unscrupulous or resorts to trickery
- any person who quibbles or fusses over details
- (intr) to be a pettifogger
Word Origin and History for pettifogger
1560s, from petty; the second element possibly from obsolete Dutch focker, from Flemish focken "to cheat," or from cognate Middle English fugger, from Fugger the renowned family of merchants and financiers of 15c.-16c. Augsburg. In German, Flemish and Dutch, the name became a word for "monopolist, rich man, usurer."
A 'petty Fugger' would mean one who on a small scale practices the dishonourable devices for gain popularly attributed to great financiers; it seems possible that the phrase 'petty fogger of the law,' applied in this sense to some notorious person, may have caught the popular fancy. [OED first edition, in a rare burst of pure speculation]
However, OED also calls attention to pettifactor "legal agent who undertakes small cases" (1580s), which, though attested slightly later, might be the source of this. Related: Pettifoggery.