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  1. of very little importance; trivial; insignificant: a trifling matter.
  2. of small value, cost, or amount: a trifling sum.
  3. frivolous; shallow; light: trifling conversation.
  4. mean; worthless.
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  1. idle or frivolous conduct, talk, etc.
  2. foolish delay or waste of time.
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Origin of trifling

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at trifle, -ing2, -ing1
Related formstri·fling·ly, adverbtri·fling·ness, nounun·tri·fling, adjectiveun·tri·fling·ly, adverb


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1. unimportant, slight, inconsequential. See petty. 2. negligible, piddling.



  1. an article or thing of very little value.
  2. a matter, affair, or circumstance of trivial importance or significance.
  3. a small, inconsiderable, or trifling sum of money.
  4. a small quantity or amount of anything; a little: She's still a trifle angry.
  5. a literary, musical, or artistic work of a light or trivial character having no great or lasting merit; bagatelle.
  6. a kind of pewter of medium hardness.
  7. trifles, articles made of this.
  8. English Cookery. a dessert usually consisting of custard and cake soaked in wine or liqueur, and jam, fruit, or the like.
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verb (used without object), tri·fled, tri·fling.
  1. to deal lightly or without due seriousness or respect: Don't trifle with me!
  2. to play or toy by handling or fingering: He sat trifling with a pen.
  3. to act or talk in an idle or frivolous way.
  4. to pass time idly or frivolously; waste time; idle.
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verb (used with object), tri·fled, tri·fling.
  1. to pass or spend (time) idly or frivolously (usually followed by away).
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Origin of trifle

1175–1225; (noun) Middle English tru(f)fle idle talk, deceit < Old French, variant of truf(f)e mockery, deceit; (v.) Middle English treoflen to mock < Old French trufler to make sport of
Related formstri·fler, noun


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1. bauble, toy. 13. fritter.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for trifling

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Things as trifling as the turning of a shell may restore you to your rights.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • When you return, you will find a trifling token of remembrance for yourself and Philothea.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • "You are trifling, Smithson," the owner of the store exclaimed, in high exasperation.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • This pulse is trifling with me; I see that it does not know me yet.

  • By trifling but unavoidable accidents, it was delayed a few hours.

British Dictionary definitions for trifling


  1. insignificant or petty
  2. frivolous or idle
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Derived Formstriflingly, adverbtriflingness, noun


  1. a thing of little or no value or significance
  2. a small amount; bita trifle more enthusiasm
  3. British a cold dessert made with sponge cake spread with jam or fruit, soaked in wine or sherry, covered with a custard sauce and cream, and decorated
  4. a type of pewter of medium hardness
  5. articles made from this pewter
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  1. (intr usually foll by with) to deal (with) as if worthless; dallyto trifle with a person's affections
  2. to waste (time) frivolously
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Derived Formstrifler, noun

Word Origin

C13: from Old French trufle mockery, from trufler to cheat
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 trifling



early 13c., trufle "false or idle tale," later "matter of little importance" (late 13c.), from Old French trufle "mockery," diminutive of truffe "deception," of uncertain origin.

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"treat lightly," 1520s, from trifle (n.). Related: Trifled; trifling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper