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

Adjective a petty argument about grammar My behavior was petty and stupid. I apologize.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In the film, Eliza Scanlen stars as Milla, a teenage girl with a terminal illness, who begins to fall for Moses (Toby Wallace), who besides being older is also a drug addict and petty criminal. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, "Indie Focus: Celebrate with ‘Miss Juneteenth’," 19 June 2020 The enormity of this realization dwarfed my seemingly petty quagmires. Michael Heim, al, "Michael Heim, McGill-Toolen Catholic High School," 19 June 2020 Review city ordinances and eliminate petty offenses that could result in arrest or jail. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "More mental health help and resident input on police spending are among recommendations to reform policing in Phoenix," 18 June 2020 In March, Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner asked smaller police departments to keep petty criminals out of jail to stop the spread of the coronavirus there. Dallas News, "Collin County jail confirms first positive tests for COVID-19," 17 June 2020 Some of the government’s lofty contradictions concern petty matters. The Economist, "Banyan India’s bureaucrats are fighting covid-19 with red tape," 11 June 2020 Rizer, though, acknowledged that prison officials have not moved fast enough in releasing nonviolent offenders, including those who committed crimes such as fraud, forgery or petty drug offenses. Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus was Paul Manafort's ticket home. Many other old, ill, nonviolent inmates are still in prison.," 10 June 2020 In a week’s time, the entire world has come to chant the name of an anonymous man, a man known only for general congeniality and (now) for a single act of alleged petty theft. J.c. Hallman, The New Republic, "Minneapolis in the Aftermath," 4 June 2020 Still, these last two months the forum seems to be littered with petty news from the home front. Rachel Levin,, "In the Bay Area, wildlife comes out to play while humans shelter in place," 3 June 2020

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

25 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Petty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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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

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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

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