What word or phrase does your mother always say?


[pet-ee] /ˈpɛt i/
adjective, pettier, pettiest.
of little or no importance or consequence:
petty grievances.
of lesser or secondary importance, merit, etc.; minor:
petty considerations.
having or showing narrow ideas, interests, etc.:
petty minds.
mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things:
a petty person.
showing or caused by meanness of spirit:
a petty revenge.
of secondary rank, especially in relation to others of the same class or kind:
petty states; a petty tyrant.
Origin of petty
1325-75; Middle English peti(t) small, minor < Old French petit < Gallo-Romance *pittīttus, of expressive orig.
Related forms
pettily, adverb
pettiness, noun
1. nugatory, negligible, inconsiderable, slight. Petty, paltry, trifling, trivial apply to something that is so insignificant as to be almost unworthy of notice. Petty implies contemptible insignificance and littleness, inferiority and small worth: petty quarrels. Paltry is applied to something that is beneath one's notice, even despicable: a paltry amount. Something that is trifling is so unimportant and inconsiderable as to be practically negligible: a trifling error. Something that is trivial is slight, insignificant, and even in incongruous contrast to something that is significant or important: a trivial remark; a trivial task. 3. small. 4. stingy, miserly.
1. important. 4. generous. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for pettiness
  • Only when they are married does she realize his pedantry and pettiness.
  • pettiness, idiocy, and vulgarity are regular features of the site.
  • Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.
  • The pettiness of the blockade is striking as one looks at the particulars of its enforcement over the past several years.
  • They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness.
  • The pettiness would be laughable if it wasn't so pathetic.
  • There is no place in science for partisanship, pettiness, or churlishness.
  • The timing of the revocation of his citizenship does smack of pettiness.
  • Ultimately, governments should make decisions that transcend the pettiness of momentary political advantage.
  • Theology should begin by recognizing the vastness of the ocean of truth and the pettiness of our search for smoother pebbles.
British Dictionary definitions for pettiness


adjective -tier, -tiest
trivial; trifling; inessential: petty details
of a narrow-minded, mean, or small-natured disposition or character: petty spite
minor or subordinate in rank: petty officialdom
(law) of lesser importance
Derived Forms
pettily, adverb
pettiness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French petit
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for pettiness



late 14c., "small," from phonemic spelling of Old French petit "small" (see petit). In English, not originally disparaging (cf. petty cash, 1834; petty officer, 1570s). Meaning "of small importance" is recorded from 1520s; that of "small-minded" is from 1580s. Related: Pettily; pettiness. An old name for "Northern Lights" was petty dancers.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for petty

All English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for pettiness

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with pettiness