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  1. a formally drawn request, often bearing the names of a number of those making the request, that is addressed to a person or group of persons in authority or power, soliciting some favor, right, mercy, or other benefit: a petition for clemency; a petition for the repeal of an unfair law.
  2. a request made for something desired, especially a respectful or humble request, as to a superior or to one of those in authority; a supplication or prayer: a petition for aid; a petition to God for courage and strength.
  3. something that is sought by request or entreaty: to receive one's full petition.
  4. Law. an application for a court order or for some judicial action.
verb (used with object)
  1. to beg for or request (something).
  2. to address a formal petition to (a sovereign, a legislative body, etc.): He received everything for which he had petitioned the king.
  3. to ask by petition for (something).
verb (used without object)
  1. to present a petition.
  2. to address or present a formal petition.
  3. to request or solicit, as by a petition: to petition for redress of grievances.

Origin of petition

1300–50; Middle English peticioun (< Middle French peticion) < Latin petītiōn- (stem of petītiō) a seeking out, equivalent to petīt(us) (past participle of petere to seek) + -iōn- -ion
Related formspe·ti·tion·a·ble, adjectivepe·ti·tion·er, pe·ti·tion·ist, nouncoun·ter·pe·ti·tion, noun, verbpre·pe·ti·tion, noun, verb (used with object)re-pe·ti·tion, verb (used with object)un·pe·ti·tioned, adjective

Synonyms for petition

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Synonym study

9. See appeal. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for petition

Contemporary Examples of petition

Historical Examples of petition

British Dictionary definitions for petition


  1. a written document signed by a large number of people demanding some form of action from a government or other authority
  2. any formal request to a higher authority or deity; entreaty
  3. law a formal application in writing made to a court asking for some specific judicial actiona petition for divorce
  4. the action of petitioning
  1. (tr) to address or present a petition to (a person in authority, government, etc)to petition Parliament
  2. (intr foll by for) to seek by petitionto petition for a change in the law
Derived Formspetitionary, adjective

Word Origin for petition

C14: from Latin petītiō, from petere to seek
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 petition

early 14c., "a supplication or prayer, especially to a deity," from Old French peticion "request, petition" (12c., Modern French pétition) and directly from Latin petitionem (nominative petitio) "a blow, thrust, attack, aim; a seeking, searching," in law "a claim, suit," noun of action from past participle stem of petere "to make for, go to; attack, assail; seek, strive after; ask for, beg, beseech, request; fetch; derive; demand, require," from PIE root *pet-, also *pete- "to rush; to fly" (cf. Sanskrit pattram "wing, feather, leaf," patara- "flying, fleeting;" Hittite pittar "wing;" Greek piptein "to fall," potamos "rushing water," pteryx "wing;" Old English feðer "feather;" Latin penna "feather, wing;" Old Church Slavonic pero "feather;" Old Welsh eterin "bird"). Meaning "formal written request to a superior (earthly)" is attested from early 15c.


c.1600, from petition (n.). Related: Petitioned; petitioning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper