• synonyms


[pet-ee-fog-ing, -faw-ging]
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  1. insignificant; petty: pettifogging details.
  2. dishonest or unethical in insignificant matters; meanly petty.
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Origin of pettifogging

First recorded in 1570–80; see origin at pettifog, -ing2


[pet-ee-fog, -fawg]
verb (used without object), pet·ti·fogged, pet·ti·fog·ging.
  1. to bicker or quibble over trifles or unimportant matters.
  2. to carry on a petty, shifty, or unethical law business.
  3. to practice chicanery of any sort.
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Origin of pettifog

1605–15; back formation from pettifogger, equivalent to petty + fogger < Middle Low German voger or Middle Dutch voeger one who arranges things; akin to Old English gefōg a joining
Related formspet·ti·fog·ger, nounpet·ti·fog·ger·y, noun
Can be confusedambulance chaser mouthpiece pettifogger shyster
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for pettifogging

niggle, bicker, wrangle, hassle, prevaricate, fence, avoid, flip-flop, spar, dispute, cavil, squabble, nitpick, carp, waffle, criticize, shift, pretend, evade, equivocate

Examples from the Web for pettifogging

Historical Examples of pettifogging

  • The issues involved are too big and far-reaching for pettifogging methods.

    The Root of Evil

    Thomas Dixon

  • Why, you would not take such a pettifogging advantage of an old comrade as that.

    White Lies

    Charles Reade

  • It was just as well not to have a pettifogging lawyer to deal with.

  • None of your pettifogging tribe for me: I shall step to the front, and stay there.

  • The pettifogging of disobliging illwill could go no further.

British Dictionary definitions for pettifogging


  1. pettypettifogging details
  2. mean; quibblingpettifogging lawyers
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verb -fogs, -fogging or -fogged
  1. (intr) to be a pettifogger
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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 pettifogging

1570s as a verbal noun; c.1600 as a past participle adjective; see pettifogger. A verb pettifog is rare and attested only from 1640s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper