Word Origin & History
mid-14c., "trifling," from O.Fr. petit "small" (11c.), probably from stem of L.L. pitinnus "small," of uncertain origin, perhaps ultimately from Celtic root *pett- "part, piece, bit" (see piece
). Attested as a surname from 1086. Replaced by petty (q.v.) in most usages, except
in established forms such as petit bourgeois "conventional middle-class" (1853, used by Charlotte Brontë earlier than by Marx or Engels; petty bourgeois, however, is attested from 1850), petit mal (1842, "little evil," mild form of epilepsy), and petit four (1884), which in Fr. means "little oven," from O.Fr. four "oven," from L. furnus.