pettifog

[pet-ee-fog, -fawg]
verb (used without object), pettifogged, pettifogging.
1.
to bicker or quibble over trifles or unimportant matters.
2.
to carry on a petty, shifty, or unethical law business.
3.
to practice chicanery of any sort.

Origin:
1605–15; back formation from pettifogger, equivalent to petty + fogger < Middle Low German voger or Middle Dutch voeger one who arranges things; akin to Old English gefōg a joining

pettifogger, noun
pettifoggery, noun

ambulance chaser, mouthpiece, pettifogger, shyster.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
pettifog (ˈpɛtɪˌfɒɡ)
 
vb , -fogs, -fogging, -fogged
(intr) to be a pettifogger

pettifogger (ˈpɛtɪˌfɒɡə)
 
n
1.  a lawyer of inferior status who conducts unimportant cases, esp one who is unscrupulous or resorts to trickery
2.  any person who quibbles or fusses over details
 
[C16: from petty + fogger, of uncertain origin, perhaps from Fugger, name of a family (C15--16) of German financiers]
 
'pettifoggery
 
n

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

pettifogger
1564, from petty (q.v.), the second element possibly from obs. Du. focker, from Flem. focken "to cheat," or from cognate M.E. fugger, from Fugger the renowned family of merchants and financiers of 15c.-16c. Augsburg. In Ger., Flem. and Du., the name became a word for "monopolist, rich man, usurer."
"A 'petty Fugger' would mean one who on a small scale practices the dishonourable devices for gain popularly attributed to great financiers; it seems possible that the phrase 'petty fogger of the law,' applied in this sense to some notorious person, may have caught the popular fancy." [O.E.D. first edition, in a rare burst of pure speculation]
However, cf. pettifactor "legal agent who undertakes small cases" (1586), which, though attested slightly later, may be the source of this.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
He never descended to the mean, tricky acts of a pettifogger, and his legal career was ever honorable and upright.
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