split hairs


To argue about an inconsequential and trivial aspect of an issue: “When you are accused of being forty-five minutes late for an appointment, you are splitting hairs to say that you were really only forty minutes late.”

Words Nearby split hairs

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

How to use split hairs in a sentence

  • Multiplicity, change, motion—who is to split hairs about them, who will make fine distinctions?

  • It is possible to find a thousand faults in the most perfect work if one only hunts long enough and is willing to split hairs.

    A Cadet's Honor | Upton Sinclair
  • Starza and Tichnat split hairs while I dozed and thought about Fern.

    Exploiter's End | James Causey
  • Just get me back, and we'll split hairs about it when I get around this way again.

    Desire No More | Algirdas Jonas Budrys
  • Sir Blaise, unwilling to split hairs, took it as balsam, and hurriedly turned the conversation.

    The Lady of Loyalty House | Justin Huntly McCarthy

Other Idioms and Phrases with split hairs

split hairs

Make trivial distinctions, quibble, as in Let's not split hairs about whose turn it is; I'll close up today and you do it tomorrow. This metaphoric idiom transfers dividing so fine an object as a single hair to other petty divisions. [Second half of 1600s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.