pet·​ty | \ ˈpe-tē How to pronounce petty (audio) \
pettier; pettiest

Definition of petty

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having secondary rank or importance : minor, subordinate
2 : having little or no importance or significance
3 : marked by or reflective of narrow interests and sympathies : small-minded


biographical name
Pet·​ty | \ ˈpe-tē How to pronounce Petty (audio) \

Definition of Petty (Entry 2 of 2)

Sir William 1623–1687 English political economist

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from petty


pettily \ ˈpe-​tə-​lē How to pronounce pettily (audio) \ adverb
pettiness \ ˈpe-​tē-​nəs How to pronounce pettiness (audio) \ noun

Examples of petty in a Sentence

Adjective a petty argument about grammar My behavior was petty and stupid. I apologize.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Get our daily newsletter Their fear is not of ideological contamination, but of the petty crime and shootings that China’s state media highlight as a scourge of Western societies. The Economist, "Many Chinese students are frightened of studying abroad," 21 Nov. 2019 Former Oregon Ducks football player Colt Lyerla was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years in prison for attacking and strangling a girlfriend, completing a long downward spiral fueled by drug abuse and petty crime. oregonlive, "Former Oregon Ducks football star Colt Lyerla sentenced to 2 years for attacking, strangling girlfriend," 20 Nov. 2019 Most of their arrests were for petty crimes like shopbreaking and bike theft. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Who Were the Real Life Peaky Blinders Gangsters?," 3 Nov. 2019 A few years ago, Alamosa was awarded a modest grant from the federal government that the city used to create a program that keeps kids out of jail for petty crimes. Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post, "Immigration dispute with Trump administration costs small Colorado towns," 27 Oct. 2019 Many Bronx residents have pointed out that the stairs are notoriously the scene of petty crimes. Wired, "‘Joker Stairs’ and the Problem With Meme Tourism," 24 Oct. 2019 Approximately 500,000 citizens convicted of petty crimes will be pardoned, fines forgiven and in certain cases, legal restrictions removed from their records. Peter Mikelbank,, "Japan Celebrates Emperor Naruhito’s Enthronement with the Ultimate Royal Guest List!," 22 Oct. 2019 The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pardoned about 550,000 people who were found guilty of petty crimes such as traffic violations ahead of the ceremony to mark the occasion. Fox News, "Japan pardons more than half a million of petty crimes to mark ascension of new emperor," 22 Oct. 2019 Neely dropped out of school and got caught up in petty crime. CBS News, "Man arrested by officers on horseback says video of incident made him feel shame," 5 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'petty.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of petty


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for petty


Middle English pety small, minor, alteration of petit

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about petty

Time Traveler for petty

Time Traveler

The first known use of petty was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for petty

Last Updated

25 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Petty.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 6 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for petty


How to pronounce Petty (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of petty

: not very important or serious
: relating to things that are not very important or serious
: committing crimes that are not very serious


pet·​ty | \ ˈpe-tē How to pronounce petty (audio) \
pettier; pettiest

Kids Definition of petty

1 : small and of no importance Don't worry about the petty details.
2 : showing or having a mean narrow-minded attitude

Other Words from petty

pettiness \ ˈpe-​tē-​nəs \ noun


pet·​ty | \ ˈpe-tē How to pronounce petty (audio) \

Legal Definition of petty

: relatively minor in degree a petty offense punishable by not more than six months in prison — compare grand

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on petty

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for petty

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with petty

Spanish Central: Translation of petty

Nglish: Translation of petty for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of petty for Arabic Speakers

Comments on petty

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


very cautious or careful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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