[ pet-ee-fog-ing, -faw-ging ]
See synonyms for pettifogging on
  1. insignificant; petty: pettifogging details.

  2. dishonest or unethical in insignificant matters; meanly petty.

Origin of pettifogging

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

Words Nearby pettifogging Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use pettifogging in a sentence

  • He is only a pettifogging country Squire, whose views on the Land Question are ob-solete in tot-to.

    Mushroom Town | Oliver Onions
  • Dare not say it is, or I will, upon the spot, divorce your pettifogging soul from your carrion carcass!

    The Fortunes of Nigel | Sir Walter Scott
  • By conforming to the Laws of this Universe; instead of trying by pettifogging to evade and profitably contradict them.

  • I think you're nothing but a pettifogging lawyer—that there ain't no partner, and I'm no better'n a fool to talk to you.

    Max Fargus | Owen Johnson
  • The pettifogging objections to some social plan had very little chance of survival owing to the dynamic power of the reformers.

    A Preface to Politics | Walter Lippmann

British Dictionary definitions for pettifogging


/ (ˈpɛtɪˌfɒɡɪŋ) /

  1. petty: pettifogging details

  2. mean; quibbling: pettifogging lawyers

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