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

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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


a petty argument about grammar My behavior was petty and stupid. I apologize.

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insults and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Read Barack Obama’s eulogy for Sen. John McCain," 1 Sep. 2018 Outrageous, exaggerated, petty, routine or self-important, these electronic missives from the most powerful man on Earth cannot be ignored. Andrew Malcolm,, "Is Donald Trump chief executive or executive producer?," 28 June 2018 Rather than confident, that person is cocky, petty, loud. Allison P. Davis, The Cut, "You Know He Got That Big Dick Energy," 26 June 2018 Sit back and learn the details of a bizarre tale of weird rich people being petty and weird and rich to each other. Constance Grady, Vox, "The billionaire house hostage saga of Azealia Banks, Elon Musk, and Grimes, explained," 16 Aug. 2018 Buried in the petty jealousies and breathless infatuations, though, is Ricard opening his heart—in all its vulnerability and honesty and vanity and glory-seeking—to the world. Corey Seymour, Vogue, "Rene Ricard’s First Book of Poems, Long Out of Print, Is Back—And It’s a Revelation," 4 May 2018 Always emotionally resonant, Japan's Kore-eda Hirokazu tells a story of a family of petty criminals. Kenneth Turan,, "A kiss is not just a kiss at Cannes, where the mood is edgy this year," 7 May 2018 Petty theft of $20 cash reported by Ramona Village Apartments, 110 Seventh St. Zigman Shields General Contractors reported petty theft of two miscellaneous items valued at $400 in the 2000 block of Main Street. Sentinel Staff, Ramona Sentinel, "Sheriff's Reports: March 18-25," 27 Mar. 2018 There’s not as much money for the police force, and there’s a rash of break-ins and petty crime. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "The case against billionaire philanthropy," 17 Dec. 2018

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.

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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

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Dictionary Entries near petty






petty average

petty bag

Statistics for petty

Last Updated

10 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for petty

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

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More Definitions for petty



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

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More from Merriam-Webster on petty

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with petty

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


showing great care, attention, and effort

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