definitions
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hairsplitting

[ hair-split-ing ]
/ ˈhɛərˌsplɪt ɪŋ /
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SEE MORE SYNONYMS FOR hairsplitting ON THESAURUS.COM

noun

the making of unnecessarily fine distinctions.

adjective

characterized by such distinctions: the hairsplitting arguments of a political debate.

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RELATED WORDS

carping, censorious, critical, demanding, faultfinding, finicky, fussy, niggling, persnickety, overcritical, nit-picking

Nearby words

hairline fracture, hairnet, hairpiece, hairpin, hairsbreadth, hairsplitting, hairspray, hairspring, hairstreak, hairstyle, hairstylist

Origin of hairsplitting

First recorded in 1820–30; hair + splitting
SYNONYMS FOR hairsplitting
2 quibbling, niggling, nitpicking, captious.
Related formshair·split·ter, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hair-splitting

British Dictionary definitions for hair-splitting

hairsplitting

/ (ˈhɛəˌsplɪtɪŋ) /

noun

the making of petty distinctions

adjective

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

hair-splitting


n.

"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