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

Visible homelessness, wholesale theft from stores by organized gangs of shoplifters and petty theft have added to the merchants’ concerns. Phil Matier,, "SF hiring retired cops for mean streets of Union Square," 28 July 2019 Christian Michael LaChapelle, 42, of the 300 block of Green Bay Road in Glencoe, was issued a citation for petty theft after a report of a retail theft that had just occurred in the 900 block of Green Bay Road. Brian L. Cox,, "Winnetka police blotter: Resident gets fraudulent call to give gift card ‘donations’ to church," 12 July 2019 As the Post notes, the searches were used even for low-level crimes like petty theft and often required only an email from federal officials to local agencies. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "ICE and the FBI are using facial recognition on driver’s license databases around the US," 8 July 2019 Better policing at ports has also led to a fall in petty theft in recent years. The Economist, "West Africa has become the world’s piracy hotspot," 3 July 2019 Ramos has a criminal court record in Sacramento County dating back to 1995 with convictions for domestic violence, DUI, petty theft and battery. Hannah Fry,, "Chilling body cam video details shooting of Sacramento police Officer Tara O’Sullivan," 24 June 2019 Two weeks after the slayings, the gun was used to wound two men after a petty dispute in the Lawndale neighborhood. Chicago Tribune Staff,, "Daywatch: Fireworks laws and safety, CPS contract talks escalate and other things to know to start your day," 4 July 2019 Violators may be issued a summons for a class 2 petty offense, punishable by a fine of one hundred dollars. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "Clear Creek tubing, swimming and body surfing banned as death toll on Colorado waterways continues to rise," 1 July 2019 And Lindley didn't think a petty thief would commit a crime this violent. CBS News, "Podcast spotlights Mississippi double murder – can new DNA technology solve the cold case?," 29 June 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.

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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

5 Aug 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).


a period when something is suspended

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