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 Petty (audio) \ adverb
pettiness \ ˈpe-​tē-​nəs How to pronounce Petty (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 But the Russian Hill incidents do not seem like run-of-the-mill petty theft. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "San Francisco may have a wine thief. And it looks like they're into fancy Italian bottles," 30 Mar. 2021 Police arrested the suspect for petty theft and then released him on his own recognizance. Bruce Geiselman, cleveland, "Woman charged with OVI after narrowly missing utility pole: North Olmsted Police Blotter," 20 Mar. 2021 She was booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of petty theft, robbery and two counts of violation of civil rights by force or threat, and appeared in court for the battery and hate crime charges on Monday. Washington Post, "California woman charged with spitting on Asian American man in racist attack: ‘It’s very targeted vitriol.'," 9 Mar. 2021 Inman was charged with petty theft, robbery and two counts of violation of civil rights by force or threat because of two incidents alleged to have occurred Feb. 13. NBC News, "Woman charged with 'anti-Asian hate crime' of spitting on man in California," 27 Feb. 2021 Police charged the woman with petty theft, possessing criminal tools, improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, driving under suspension, and driving an unsafe vehicle. Bruce Geiselman, cleveland, "Drunken driving suspect stopped with child in car: North Olmsted Police Blotter," 27 Feb. 2021 Before the interview aired, royal insiders hoped the public would find a Diana who was unsophisticated, evil and petty — roughly along the lines of their whispers to the tabloids. Washington Post, "‘Three of us in this marriage’: Princess Diana’s stunning interview with Martin Bashir," 7 Mar. 2021 Millions have been lifted out of poverty; the nation’s 73 percent literacy rate, according to the United Nations, represents an increase of 13 percent since the genocide, and petty corruption is nearly nonexistent. New York Times, "He Was the Hero of ‘Hotel Rwanda.’ Now He’s Accused of Terrorism.," 2 Mar. 2021 Rather than casting accusations or starting petty drama, he and other creators have been trusted to report based on facts. Zoe Haylock, Vulture, "Welcome to the Circus," 2 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for petty

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for petty

Last Updated

3 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Petty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for petty

Nglish: Translation of petty for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of petty for Arabic Speakers

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