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See more synonyms for petty on Thesaurus.com
adjective, pet·ti·er, pet·ti·est.
  1. of little or no importance or consequence: petty grievances.
  2. of lesser or secondary importance, merit, etc.; minor: petty considerations.
  3. having or showing narrow ideas, interests, etc.: petty minds.
  4. mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things: a petty person.
  5. showing or caused by meanness of spirit: a petty revenge.
  6. of secondary rank, especially in relation to others of the same class or kind: petty states; a petty tyrant.
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Origin of petty

1325–75; Middle English peti(t) small, minor < Old French petit < Gallo-Romance *pittīttus, of expressive orig.
Related formspet·ti·ly, adverbpet·ti·ness, noun


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
1. nugatory, negligible, inconsiderable, slight. Petty, paltry, trifling, trivial apply to something that is so insignificant as to be almost unworthy of notice. Petty implies contemptible insignificance and littleness, inferiority and small worth: petty quarrels. Paltry is applied to something that is beneath one's notice, even despicable: a paltry amount. Something that is trifling is so unimportant and inconsiderable as to be practically negligible: a trifling error. Something that is trivial is slight, insignificant, and even in incongruous contrast to something that is significant or important: a trivial remark; a trivial task. 3. small. 4. stingy, miserly.


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

Related Words


Examples from the Web for pettiness

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Nothing but our own pinchbeck ideas could ascribe to Him this pettiness.

  • Round me there is naught but weakness, hypocrisy, pettiness.

  • I wish to be thought exclusive, yet I condemn the pettiness of my ambition.

    Robert Orange

    John Oliver Hobbes

  • And James was horrified at the pettiness and the prejudice which he found in his home.

    The Hero

    William Somerset Maugham

  • Then, indeed, was no restraint or pettiness; then men were hard and firm and strong.

    The Hero

    William Somerset Maugham

British Dictionary definitions for pettiness


adjective -tier or -tiest
  1. trivial; trifling; inessentialpetty details
  2. of a narrow-minded, mean, or small-natured disposition or characterpetty spite
  3. minor or subordinate in rankpetty officialdom
  4. law of lesser importance
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Derived Formspettily, adverbpettiness, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French petit
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 pettiness



late 14c., "small," from phonemic spelling of Old French petit "small" (see petit). In English, not originally disparaging (cf. petty cash, 1834; petty officer, 1570s). Meaning "of small importance" is recorded from 1520s; that of "small-minded" is from 1580s. Related: Pettily; pettiness. An old name for "Northern Lights" was petty dancers.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper