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 formshair·split·ter, noun

Synonyms for hairsplitting

2. quibbling, niggling, nitpicking, captious. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hair-splitting

Contemporary Examples of hair-splitting

Historical Examples of hair-splitting

British Dictionary definitions for hair-splitting



the making of petty distinctions


occupied with or based on petty distinctions
Derived Formshairsplitter, 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

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