Definition of hair-splitting in English:

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Characterized by or fond of small and overfine distinctions: the legal experts have a particularly hair-splitting mentality
More example sentences
  • How can the Supreme Court possibly know what the most divisive policy is with respect to these hair-splitting distinctions.
  • A good example of this is the often hair-splitting legal distinctions between valid and invalid transfers.
  • Then they became immersed in hair-splitting debates about difficult ‘moral’ decisions but within a context where everything was justified if politically useful.
Scottish & Irish  pass-remarkable
North American informal persnickety
archaic nice, overnice


[mass noun]
The action of making small and overfine distinctions; quibbling.
Example sentences
  • The aim of these fine distinctions, not to say hair-splitting, is to deny the Marxist thesis that the driving forces of the war were rooted in economic and geopolitical conflicts of the major capitalist powers.
  • Avoid complicated issues of public policy; the people need to have their hearts lifted by statements of steely resolve, and there's little time for wonky hair-splitting.
  • Even the most intelligent and well-intentioned judge can create a mess by indulging in hair-splitting that, at least on its own narrow terms, may seem reasonable.



Example sentences
  • Human consciousness is too important to be left to the hair-splitters.
  • They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don't regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine.
  • However, don't go endlessly back and forth between suppliers in an attempt to grind out a rock-bottom price, otherwise you'll be marked down as a time waster and a hair-splitter.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hair-splitting

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