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

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 As a petty trader earning a pittance from trading car engine oil at bustling Ajegunle market in Nigeria's economic capital, Lagos, Oluwaseyi does not earn enough to cover the annual 18,000 naira (around $50) school fees. Valentine Iwenwanne And Aisha Salaudeen, CNN, "The school where parents pay tuition fees with plastic bottles," 27 June 2019 But the strength of the book is in its unsentimental limning of the past, of dinner-table conversations, pillow talk, sisterly intrigues and alliances, of creaking floors and sheltering trees, of petty resentments and small rapprochements. Joanne Kaufman, WSJ, "“The Most Fun We Ever Had” Review: An Assured Debut," 21 June 2019 Walsh’s criminal record shows he has been convicted of numerous petty misdemeanors since 2012 including drug possession, damage to property and traffic violations. Deanna Weniger, Twin Cities, "Lino Lakes man charged with shooting and killing two protected swans," 18 June 2019 Harden hasn’t returned Paul’s repeated attempts at communicating this offseason, sources said, after a year in which the pair repeatedly got under each other’s skin with petty acts in practices and games. Sean Meagher | The Oregonian/oregonlive,, "NBA rumor roundup: Thunder trying to shed salary; Rockets ‘plan to pursue’ Jimmy Butler," 19 June 2019 People claimed to dislike her petty feuding, but then spent thousands of hours treating her lyrics, tweets, and Instagram photos like a scandal scavenger hunt. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "Stop Meme-ing Taylor Swift," 19 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

8 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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