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

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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

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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

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The first known use of pettifogger was in 1564

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Cite this Entry

“Pettifogger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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