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[pik-ee-yoon, pik-uh-] /ˌpɪk iˈyun, ˌpɪk ə-/
adjective, Also, picayunish, Informal.
of little value or account; small; trifling:
a picayune amount.
petty, carping, or prejudiced:
I didn't want to seem picayune by criticizing.
(formerly, in Louisiana, Florida, etc.) a coin equal to half a Spanish real.
any small coin, as a five-cent piece.
Informal. an insignificant person or thing.
Origin of picayune
1780-90; < Provençal picaioun small copper coin (compare French picaillons), derivative of an onomatopoetic base *pikk- beat, here referring to the coining of coppers
Related forms
picayunishly, adverb
picayunishness, noun
1. trivial, insignificant. 2. narrow-minded.


[pik-uh-yoon, pik-ee-] /ˌpɪk əˈyun, ˌpɪk i-/
a town in SE Mississippi. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for picayune
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I give him a picayune, now and then; and you see he dresses well.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • If we were only there, our chances wouldn't be worth a picayune.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • I shall not proceed with the play for that picayune sum before me.

    Desert Dust Edwin L. Sabin
  • This mystified me, but to object to the tent, of course, would have been picayune.

    The Prairie Mother Arthur Stringer
  • They ride like the devil, fight like the devil, but don't care a picayune for anything.

    The Crisis, Complete Winston Churchill
  • She wrote much for the picayune and wrote herself into love as well as fame.

  • "picayune Butler's coming, coming" has upset my nervous system.

    A Confederate Girl's Diary Sarah Margan Dawson
British Dictionary definitions for picayune


adjective (US & Canadian, informal)
of small value or importance
mean; petty
the half real, an old Spanish-American coin
(US) any coin of little value, esp a five-cent piece
Derived Forms
picayunishly, adverb
picayunishness, noun
Word Origin
C19: from French picaillon coin from Piedmont, from Provençal picaioun, of unknown origin
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 picayune

1804, "coin of small value," probably from Louisiana French picaillon "coin worth 5 cents," earlier the French name of an old copper coin of Savoy (1750), from Provençal picaioun "small copper coin," from picaio "money," of uncertain origin. Adjectival figurative sense of "paltry, mean" recorded from 1813.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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