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 \ˈpe-tē-ˌfȯ-giŋ, -ˌfä-\ adjective or noun

pettifoggery

play \ˈpe-tē-ˌfȯ-g(ə-)rē, -ˌfä-\ noun

pettifogger was our Word of the Day on 01/23/2007. Hear the podcast!

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



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