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picayune

[pik-ee-yoon, pik-uh-]
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adjective Also pic·a·yun·ish. Informal.
  1. of little value or account; small; trifling: a picayune amount.
  2. petty, carping, or prejudiced: I didn't want to seem picayune by criticizing.
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noun
  1. (formerly, in Louisiana, Florida, etc.) a coin equal to half a Spanish real.
  2. any small coin, as a five-cent piece.
  3. Informal. an insignificant person or thing.
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Origin of picayune

1780–90; < Provençal picaioun small copper coin (compare French picaillons), derivative of an onomatopoetic base *pikk- beat, here referring to the coining of coppers
Related formspic·a·yun·ish·ly, adverbpic·a·yun·ish·ness, noun

Synonyms

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1. trivial, insignificant. 2. narrow-minded.

Picayune

[pik-uh-yoon, pik-ee-]
noun
  1. a town in SE Mississippi.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for picayune

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I give him a picayune, now and then; and you see he dresses well.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • If we were only there, our chances wouldn't be worth a picayune.

    Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • I shall not proceed with the play for that picayune sum before me.

    Desert Dust

    Edwin L. Sabin

  • This mystified me, but to object to the tent, of course, would have been picayune.

    The Prairie Mother

    Arthur Stringer

  • They ride like the devil, fight like the devil, but don't care a picayune for anything.

    The Crisis, Complete

    Winston Churchill


British Dictionary definitions for picayune

picayune

adjective Also: picayunish US and Canadian informal
  1. of small value or importance
  2. mean; petty
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noun
  1. the half real, an old Spanish-American coin
  2. US any coin of little value, esp a five-cent piece
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Derived Formspicayunishly, adverbpicayunishness, noun

Word Origin

C19: from French picaillon coin from Piedmont, from Provençal picaioun, of unknown origin
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 picayune

n.

1804, "coin of small value," probably from Louisiana French picaillon "coin worth 5 cents," earlier the French name of an old copper coin of Savoy (1750), from Provençal picaioun "small copper coin," from picaio "money," of uncertain origin. Adjectival figurative sense of "paltry, mean" recorded from 1813.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper