Definition of petty in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpɛti/

adjective (pettier, pettiest)

1Of little importance; trivial: the petty divisions of party politics
More example sentences
  • The workers said the dispute was also about an arrogant management culture and petty rules and regulations.
  • It diminishes the importance of real problems if they are lumped together with petty complaints.
  • Then there are the petty differences in industrial standards and regulations from country to country.
trivial, trifling, minor, small, slight, unimportant, insignificant, inessential, inconsequential, inconsiderable, negligible, paltry, footling, fiddling, niggling, pettifogging, nugatory, of little account
informal piffling, piddling, penny-ante
British informal twopenny-halfpenny
North American informal nickel-and-dime, picayune
North American vulgar slang chickenshit
1.1Unduly concerned with trivial matters, especially in a small-minded or spiteful way: she thought readers were being petty in writing to complain about blocked paths
More example sentences
  • Aren't we all, too much into trivial matters and petty thinking and driven by insatiable greed?
  • Call it small minded and petty, or just a harmless example of traditional rivalry, but the majority of Scots will take great pleasure in watching England under-achieve in the Far East.
  • Envy is one of the worst feelings in the world because it's petty and spiteful.
small-minded, narrow-minded, mean, ungenerous, grudging, shabby, spiteful
2 [attributive] Of secondary or lesser importance, rank, or scale; minor: a petty official
More example sentences
  • Now, I can't even tempt a minor secretarial official with a petty bribe.
  • I don't know what is more extraordinary: the inability of the Labour Party to close down this story or the lengths to which petty party officials will go to undermine their own leader.
  • In the British sphere of influence, however, what the Queen does and says is proper by definition so she does not have to worry about petty would-be dictators.
2.1 Law (Of a crime) of lesser importance: petty theft Compare with grand.
More example sentences
  • Nearly all were poor, young and single convicted for petty crimes, usually theft.
  • Smaller crimes like petty theft, and burglary were common, but not murder.
  • They are beggars, petty thieves and minor dealers.



Pronunciation: /ˈpɛtɪli/
Example sentences
  • While Flores alone was ultimately responsible for his actions, it sounds to me like he was unnecessarily and pettily hounded to a point where he felt he could no longer function.
  • Juan Sara was rather pettily sent off the other week for handling the ball after having proudly flashed his dedication to Jesus, the message to the Almighty he wears on the T-shirt under his Dundee top.
  • When did politics become so pettily intrusive that government agencies think it their business to pontificate on the contents of our children's lunch boxes?


Late Middle English (in the sense 'small in size'): from a phonetic spelling of the pronunciation of French petit 'small'. Compare with petit.

  • This is a phonetic spelling of the pronunciation of French petit ‘small’. The early sense recorded was ‘small in size’. The sense ‘of small importance’ dates from the late 16th century. As well as petticoat, the word gives us pettifogger (mid 16th century) for an inferior legal practitioner, from petty and obsolete fogger ‘underhand dealer’. This is probably from Fugger, the name of a family of merchants in Augsburg, Bavaria, in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Words that rhyme with petty

amaretti, amoretti, Betti, Betty, confetti, cornetti, Donizetti, Getty, Giacometti, Hettie, jetty, machete, Marinetti, Nettie, petit, Rossetti, Serengeti, spaghetti, sweaty, vaporetti, yeti

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: petty

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