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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.
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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).
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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.
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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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for petition

application, prayer, request, suit, urge, sue, implore, pray, beseech, beg, ask, seek, memorial, imprecation, supplication, entreaty, address, invocation, solicitation, entreat

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
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  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
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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.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper