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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 It is often listed by monitoring groups as among the world’s most corrupt nations, and Pakistanis complain of having to pay bribes to obtain permits, secure government jobs or avoid being jailed for months on petty charges. Washington Post, "Pakistan, mired in debt and inflation, cracks down on corruption," 19 June 2019 Garrett Powell, Kevin Fortenberry, and, of course, Luke himself, may have been dragged into the petty distraction of that argument, but Tyler hasn't been. Ariana Romero,, "The Bachelorette Clip Show Was Awful — But This Tyler C. Detail May Have Been Worth It," 18 June 2019 Big, sophisticated states like Songhai, the empire that succeeded Mali, were weakened and eventually broke up, while smaller ones, including many petty kingdoms, became autonomous and were strengthened by economic exchanges with the newcomers. Howard W. French, The New York Review of Books, "Africa’s Lost Kingdoms," 17 June 2019 In recent months, Macron has paired these moves with somewhat more petty—and somewhat more effective—measures. Stephen Paduano, The New Republic, "The Limits of Outrage Politics," 13 June 2019 The two have had a rocky relationship over the years, which has played out via bar fights, petty social media posts and subliminal shots fired in lyrics. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "Chris Brown and Drake have set aside their beef and released a new song together," 8 June 2019 So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insults and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Read Barack Obama’s eulogy for Sen. John McCain," 1 Sep. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about petty

Dictionary Entries near petty






petty average

petty bag

Statistics for petty

Last Updated

24 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for petty

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


showing courage and determination

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!