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90s Slang You Should Know


[pet-ee-fog, -fawg] /ˈpɛt iˌfɒg, -ˌfɔg/
verb (used without object), pettifogged, pettifogging.
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
1605-15; back formation from pettifogger, equivalent to petty + fogger < Middle Low German voger or Middle Dutch voeger one who arranges things; akin to Old English gefōg a joining
Related forms
pettifogger, noun
pettifoggery, noun
Can be confused Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for pettifogger
Historical Examples
  • pettifogger, pet′i-fog-ėr, n. a lawyer who practises only in paltry cases.

  • Bear witness, I pray you all,” said the pettifogger, “as to what the knave called me.

    The Sleeping Bard Ellis Wynne
  • Anything can be proved by two false witnesses—thinks the pettifogger.

    Plays--First Series August Strindberg
  • Now, which was the best pedigree, that of the son of the pastry-cook, or that of the son of the pettifogger?

    The Romany Rye George Borrow
  • He is a pettifogger, and surely must know that there is such a thing as feloniously breaking into a man's house.

    The Pioneers James Fenimore Cooper
  • This lawyer, Overend by name, was a sort of pettifogger, who laid himself out for poor men's work.

    The Life of Thomas Wanless, Peasant Alexander Johnstone Wilson
  • Now which was the best pedigree, that of the son of the pastry-cook, or that of the son of the pettifogger?

    The Romany Rye George Borrow
  • But to hire out to impress people with another's theme is to be a pettifogger, and the genus pettifogger has nearly had his day.

  • My opponent was what was known in the States as a pettifogger.

    Memoirs of Orange Jacobs Orange Jacobs
  • He is always bringing writs of error, like a pettifogger, and reversing of judgments, though the case be never so plain.

British Dictionary definitions for 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
Derived Forms
pettifoggery, noun
Word Origin
C16: from petty + fogger, of uncertain origin, perhaps from Fugger, name of a family (C15–16) of German financiers


verb -fogs, -fogging, -fogged
(intransitive) to be a pettifogger
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
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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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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