petty

adjective

pet·​ty ˈpe-tē How to pronounce petty (audio)
pettier; pettiest
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
pettily adverb
pettiness noun

Example Sentences

a petty argument about grammar My behavior was petty and stupid. I apologize.
Recent Examples on the Web But the petty, coarse and demeaning language the participants used may serve to sabotage the cause and further divide the city. Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 10 Oct. 2022 Finally, Sidney could be funny, horny, petty, and even wrong. Odie Henderson, Vulture, 7 Jan. 2022 What’s more, fuel theft is not a crime that’s limited to just petty thieves. Jim Gorzelany, Forbes, 18 July 2022 Most city public transport in Africa is yet to go cashless, causing traffic congestion where petty thieves thrive. Faustine Ngila, Quartz, 31 May 2022 Gas stations that fail to post the signs are guilty of a petty offense and could be fined $500 a day—this in a state where shoplifters often go unprosecuted. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 24 May 2022 These would all be massive, difficult and expensive undertakings, and the twin forces of bureaucracy and petty politics have laid waste to lesser ambitions. Steve Lopezcolumnist, Los Angeles Times, 7 May 2022 On at least two occasions in Kabul, petty thieves were paraded around the streets to shame them, handcuffed, with their faces painted or with stale bread stuffed in their mouths. Kathy Gannon, Anchorage Daily News, 5 Oct. 2021 Estella travels to London, meets Jasper (played by Ziggy Gardner, then Joel Fry) and Horace (Joseph MacDonald, then Paul Walther-Hauser), joins their gang of petty thieves, and dreams of starting her own fashion house. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, 29 May 2021 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English pety small, minor, alteration of petit

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near petty

Cite this Entry

“Petty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/petty. Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

petty

adjective
pet·​ty ˈpet-ē How to pronounce petty (audio)
pettier; pettiest
1
: lesser in rank or importance : minor
a petty prince
2
: having little or no importance or meaning
petty details
3
: having or displaying a mean narrow-minded attitude : small-minded
pettily adverb
pettiness noun

Legal Definition

petty

adjective
pet·​ty ˈpe-tē How to pronounce petty (audio)
: relatively minor in degree
a petty offense punishable by not more than six months in prison
compare grand

Biographical Definition

Petty

biographical name

Pet·​ty ˈpe-tē How to pronounce Petty (audio)
Sir William 1623–1687 English political economist

More from Merriam-Webster on petty

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