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[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.


[pet-ee] /ˈpɛt i/
Richard, born 1937, U.S. racing-car driver.
William, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, 1st Marquis of Lansdowne, William Petty Fitzmaurice Lansdowne. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for petty
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • What if any of them should be drowned, and he, to vent a petty spite, had given no warning?

    The Rival Campers Ruel Perley Smith
  • Now that he was gone there would be nothing but quarrels and petty jealousies.

    The Trail Book Mary Austin
  • From petty tyrants they had been degraded to mere quill-drivers.

  • One of the mates, and two of the petty officers, could speak a little English.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • "Congdon," replied the doctor, naming one of the petty officers.

    The Mystery Stewart Edward White and Samuel Hopkins Adams
British Dictionary definitions for petty


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
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Word Origin and History for petty

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
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