[pet-ee; French puh-tee]

adjective Law.

small; petty; minor.

Origin of petit

1325–75; Middle English < Middle French; see petty

ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem

[en-se pe-tit plah-ki-dahm soo b lee-ber-tah-te kwee-ey-tem; English en-see pee-tit plas-i-dam suhb lib-er-tey-tee kwahy-ee-tem]


by the sword she seeks quiet peace under liberty: motto of Massachusetts. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for petit

Contemporary Examples of petit

Historical Examples of petit

  • Will madame be so good to enter our petit salon at the front, n'est-ce-pas?

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Why, mon petit, it was years ago in Limousin, and how can I bear in mind what was the cause of it?

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Does a newspaper, even the ubiquitous Petit Journal, penetrate into these solitudes?

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • This paper was my contract, and mon petit Dame explained that she was not my mother.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • Mon petit Dame came downstairs, with her grave husband, and kissed me.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

British Dictionary definitions for petit



(prenominal) mainly law of little or lesser importance; smallpetit jury

Word Origin for petit

C14: from Old French: little, of obscure origin



Roland (rɔlɑ̃). 1924–2011, French ballet dancer and choreographer. His innovative ballets include Carmen (1949), Kraanerg (1969), and The Blue Angel (1985); he also choreographed films, such as Anything Goes (1956) and Black Tights (1960)
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 petit

mid-14c., "trifling," from Old French petit "small, little, young, few in numbers" (11c.), probably from stem of Late Latin pitinnus "small," of uncertain origin; it corresponds to no known Latin form and perhaps is from a Celtic root pett- "part, piece, bit" also found in Italian pezza, English piece. Attested as a surname from 1086. Replaced by petty in most usages, except in established forms such as petit bourgeois "conventional middle-class" (1832; used in English by Charlotte Brontë earlier than by Marx or Engels); petit mal (1842, literally "little evil," mild form of epilepsy), and petit four (1884), which in French means "little oven," from Old French four "oven," from Latin furnus.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper