Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

pettifogger

play
noun pet·ti·fog·ger \ˈpe-tē-ˌfȯ-gər, -ˌfä-\

Definition of pettifogger

  1. 1 :  a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded, or disreputable :  shyster

  2. 2 :  one given to quibbling over trifles

pettifogging

play \-giŋ\ adjective or noun

pettifoggery

play \-g(ə-)rē\ noun


Did You Know?

In its earliest English uses, "pettifogger" was two separate words: "pettie fogger." "Pettie" was a variant spelling of "petty," a reasonable inclusion in a word for someone who is disreputable and small-minded. But why "fogger"? It may come from "Fugger," the name of a successful family of 15th- and 16th-century German merchants and financiers. Germanic variations of "fugger" were used for the wealthy and avaricious, as well as for hucksters. In English, a "pettie fogger" was originally a small-time operator of a shady business. We're not sure why the word came to be applied specifically to lawyers, but it appears to have initially referred to lower-status attorneys who argued the smaller, less important cases.

Origin and Etymology of pettifogger

probably from petty + obsolete English fogger pettifogger


First Known Use: 1564

Rhymes with pettifogger


Learn More about pettifogger


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up pettifogger? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to take off or remove

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

confounded-person

Which is a synonym of indolent?

philistine frenetic melancholy lazy
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ