pet·​ti·​fog·​ger ˈpe-tē-ˌfȯ-gər How to pronounce pettifogger (audio)
: a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded, or disreputable : shyster
: one given to quibbling over trifles
pettifogging adjective or noun
pettifoggery 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.

Examples of pettifogger in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For nearly three years now, I’ve been fascinated by the performance art of this blustering pettifogger. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 17 May 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pettifogger.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably from petty + obsolete English fogger pettifogger

First Known Use

1564, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pettifogger was in 1564


Dictionary Entries Near pettifogger

Cite this Entry

“Pettifogger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2024.

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