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hairsplitting

[hair-split-ing]
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noun
  1. the making of unnecessarily fine distinctions.
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adjective
  1. characterized by such distinctions: the hairsplitting arguments of a political debate.
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Origin of hairsplitting

First recorded in 1820–30; hair + splitting
Related formshair·split·ter, noun

Synonyms

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2. quibbling, niggling, nitpicking, captious.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

faultfindingpettinesssophistrycarpingperfectionismbickeringquibbling

Examples from the Web for hairsplitting

Historical Examples

  • Of what practical use then, it may be asked, is all this hairsplitting?

    Some Principles of Maritime Strategy

    Julian Stafford Corbett

  • Hairsplitting terms like this I do not often employ, but, blessings on the head of Cadmus!

  • The mass of the party, he said, did not trouble their heads about theories, but plodded along unmindful of hairsplitting.

  • It was fine legal reasoning, not without some of that hairsplitting for which Jefferson reproached Randolph.

    Thomas Jefferson

    Gilbert Chinard


British Dictionary definitions for hairsplitting

hairsplitting

noun
  1. the making of petty distinctions
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adjective
  1. occupied with or based on petty distinctions
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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