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[puh-tish-uh n] /pəˈtɪʃ ən/
a formally drawn request, often bearing the names of a number of those making the request, that is addressed to a person or group of persons in authority or power, soliciting some favor, right, mercy, or other benefit:
a petition for clemency; a petition for the repeal of an unfair law.
a request made for something desired, especially a respectful or humble request, as to a superior or to one of those in authority; a supplication or prayer:
a petition for aid; a petition to God for courage and strength.
something that is sought by request or entreaty:
to receive one's full petition.
Law. an application for a court order or for some judicial action.
verb (used with object)
to beg for or request (something).
to address a formal petition to (a sovereign, a legislative body, etc.):
He received everything for which he had petitioned the king.
to ask by petition for (something).
verb (used without object)
to present a petition.
to address or present a formal petition.
to request or solicit, as by a petition:
to petition for redress of grievances.
Origin of petition
1300-50; Middle English peticioun (< Middle French peticion) < Latin petītiōn- (stem of petītiō) a seeking out, equivalent to petīt(us) (past participle of petere to seek) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
petitionable, adjective
petitioner, petitionist, noun
counterpetition, noun, verb
prepetition, noun, verb (used with object)
re-petition, verb (used with object)
unpetitioned, adjective
1. suit. 2. entreaty, solicitation, appeal. 9. solicit, sue. See appeal. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for petition


a written document signed by a large number of people demanding some form of action from a government or other authority
any formal request to a higher authority or deity; entreaty
(law) a formal application in writing made to a court asking for some specific judicial action: a petition for divorce
the action of petitioning
(transitive) to address or present a petition to (a person in authority, government, etc): to petition Parliament
(intransitive) foll by for. to seek by petition: to petition for a change in the law
Derived Forms
petitionary, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Latin petītiō, from petere to seek
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for petition

early 14c., "a supplication or prayer, especially to a deity," from Old French peticion "request, petition" (12c., Modern French pétition) and directly from Latin petitionem (nominative petitio) "a blow, thrust, attack, aim; a seeking, searching," in law "a claim, suit," noun of action from past participle stem of petere "to make for, go to; attack, assail; seek, strive after; ask for, beg, beseech, request; fetch; derive; demand, require," from PIE root *pet-, also *pete- "to rush; to fly" (cf. Sanskrit pattram "wing, feather, leaf," patara- "flying, fleeting;" Hittite pittar "wing;" Greek piptein "to fall," potamos "rushing water," pteryx "wing;" Old English feðer "feather;" Latin penna "feather, wing;" Old Church Slavonic pero "feather;" Old Welsh eterin "bird"). Meaning "formal written request to a superior (earthly)" is attested from early 15c.


c.1600, from petition (n.). Related: Petitioned; petitioning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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