[ triv-ee-uhl ]
See synonyms for trivial on
  1. of very little importance or value; insignificant: Don't bother me with trivial matters.

  2. commonplace; ordinary.

  1. Biology. (of names of organisms) specific, as distinguished from generic.

  2. Mathematics.

    • noting a solution of an equation in which the value of every variable of the equation is equal to zero.

    • (of a theorem, proof, or the like) simple, transparent, or immediately evident.

  3. Chemistry. (of names of chemical compounds) derived from the natural source, or of historic origin, and not according to the systematic nomenclature: Picric acid is the trivial name of 2,4,6-trinitrophenol.

Origin of trivial

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English, from Latin triviālis “belonging to the crossroads or street corner,” hence “commonplace,” equivalent to tri- “three” + vi(a) “road” + -ālis adjective suffix; see tri-, -al1

synonym study For trivial

1. See petty.

word story For trivial

“My puns are not trivial. They are quadrivial” is one of James Joyce’s innumerable puns. He was playing the usual, common, “trivial” sense of trivial, “insignificant,” against its original English sense “pertaining to the trivium,” trivium being the first three of the seven liberal arts in the medieval university curriculum: (Latin) grammar, (Latin) rhetoric, and logic, so called because these subjects formed the “triple road to eloquence” ( triplex via ad eloquentiam ). This Medieval Latin sense of trivium dates from the Carolingian Renaissance of the late 8th century at the court of Charlemagne.
The Latin adjective triviālis, “pertaining to a crossroads or to public streets; common, vulgar, ordinary,” is a derivative of the classical Latin noun trivium meaning “the place where three roads meet, crossroads, intersection,” also “the street corner, the gutter (where bad character and manners are formed, and boys and young men ruined),” and finally the place sacred to the goddess Hecate. In Greek mythology, Hecate, who is associated with the moon and the netherworld, presides over (three-way) crossroads, doorways, magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and sorcery, and is mentioned as such by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Lear, and Macbeth. The equivalent of Hecate in Roman mythology is Diana (especially one of Diana’s multiple personae). Regarded as a three-part deity, Diana has been known by various names, including Diana Trivia and simply Trivia.
Trivia is a word in Latin, the (neuter) plural of trivium “crossroads, intersection,” and the feminine singular of the adjective trivius “pertaining to a trivium ” (especially used as an epithet of the goddess Diana). The modern English trivia is New Latin, being the neuter plural of trivius, but its meaning “unimportant things, trifles, trivialities” is influenced by triviality and dates only from the beginning of the 20th century.

Other words for trivial

Opposites for trivial

Other words from trivial

  • triv·i·al·ly, adverb
  • su·per·triv·i·al, adjective
  • un·triv·i·al, adjective
  • un·triv·i·al·ly, adverb

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

How to use trivial in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for trivial


/ (ˈtrɪvɪəl) /

  1. of little importance; petty or frivolous: trivial complaints

  2. ordinary or commonplace; trite: trivial conversation

  1. maths (of the solutions of a set of homogeneous equations) having zero values for all the variables

  2. biology denoting the specific name of an organism in binomial nomenclature

  3. biology chem denoting the popular name of an organism or substance, as opposed to the scientific one

  4. of or relating to the trivium

Origin of trivial

C15: from Latin triviālis belonging to the public streets, common, from trivium crossroads, junction of three roads, from tri- + via road

Derived forms of trivial

  • trivially, adverb
  • trivialness, noun

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