pettifogger

noun
pet·​ti·​fog·​ger | \ ˈpe-tē-ˌfȯ-gər How to pronounce pettifogger (audio) , -ˌfä- \

Definition of pettifogger

1 : a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded, or disreputable : shyster
2 : one given to quibbling over trifles

Other Words from pettifogger

pettifogging \ ˈpe-​tē-​ˌfȯ-​giŋ How to pronounce pettifogger (audio) , -​ˌfä-​ \ adjective or noun
pettifoggery \ ˈpe-​tē-​ˌfȯ-​g(ə-​)rē How to pronounce pettifogger (audio) , -​ˌfä-​ \ 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.

First Known Use of pettifogger

1564, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pettifogger

probably from petty + obsolete English fogger pettifogger

Buying Guide

Check out the 11 best games for word lovers from our Reviews team.

Learn More About pettifogger

Time Traveler for pettifogger

Time Traveler

The first known use of pettifogger was in 1564

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About pettifogger

Dictionary Entries Near pettifogger

pettifog

pettifogger

petting zoo

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for pettifogger

Cite this Entry

“Pettifogger.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pettifogger. Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on pettifogger

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pettifogger

Nglish: Translation of pettifogger for Spanish Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!