trivial

adjective

triv·​i·​al ˈtri-vē-əl How to pronounce trivial (audio)
1
a
: of little worth or importance
a trivial objection
trivial problems
b
: relating to or being the mathematically simplest case
specifically : characterized by having all variables equal to zero
a trivial solution to a linear equation
2
3
trivialist noun
trivially adverb

Did you know?

When English speakers adopted the word trivial from Latin trivialis in the 16th century, they used it to mean just what its Latin ancestor meant: "found everywhere, commonplace." But the source of trivialis is about something more specific: trivium, from tri- (three) and via (way), means "crossroads; place where three roads meet." The link between the two presumably has to do with the commonplace sorts of things a person is likely to encounter at a busy crossroads. Today, the English word typically describes something barely worth mentioning. Such judgments are, of course, subjective; feel free to mention this bit of trivia to anyone and everyone who crosses your path.

Did you know?

Trivial comes from a Latin word meaning "crossroads"—that is, where three roads come together. Since a crossroads is a very public place where all kinds of people might show up, trivialis came to mean "commonplace" or "vulgar." Today the English word has changed slightly in meaning and instead usually describes something barely worth mentioning. Mathematicians use the word to refer to the mathematically simplest case, but the rest of us tend to use it just to mean "unimportant." "Small talk" at a party, for example, is usually trivial conversation. To trivialize something is to treat it as if it doesn't matter, as if it is just another triviality.

Example Sentences

His later memory, untutored and unsupported by anything so trivial as evidence or documents, now flourished and ran wild. Muriel Spark, Curriculum Vitae, (1992) 1993 I had never heard anyone speak of their parents in this way; I never even knew you could make them seem trivial Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy, 1990 But the last tribute was to be a struggle among states for possession of the trivial remains of a man who in life had known as much revilement as honor. Robert Penn Warren, Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back, 1980 statistics and other trivial matters a trivial sum of money Compared to her problems, our problems seem trivial. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Many of these are trivial, but this book is determined to capture every detail of both the music and the life. Stuart Miller, Los Angeles Times, 12 Dec. 2022 The immediate pain of Tuesday’s 17 convictions in Manhattan will be trivial. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, 6 Dec. 2022 Iterating that move eventually gives the vacuum integrals as linear combinations of integrals with no loops, which are trivial. Byadrian Cho, science.org, 30 Nov. 2022 Even for the vaccinated, COVID-19 infection isn’t always trivial. Emma Egan, ABC News, 23 Nov. 2022 During the Cold War, American officials shrugged off this shortcoming as trivial; the Soviet Union was far from both. Arshan Barzani, WSJ, 24 Apr. 2022 The fact that there is air in the glass as well is often dismissed as trivial or outright overseen. Stefan Harrer, Forbes, 29 Sep. 2021 Writing about one billionaire’s strange quest to buy, and then not buy, and then be compelled to buy a social-media website felt trivial. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 11 Nov. 2022 Ideas or announcements that would be considered trivial by experts instead excite day traders and groupies, driving valuation by tens of billions of dollars. Bybradley Tusk, Fortune, 7 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'trivial.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Latin trivialis found everywhere, commonplace, from trivium crossroads, from tri- + via way — more at way

First Known Use

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of trivial was in 1589

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Dictionary Entries Near trivial

Cite this Entry

“Trivial.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trivial. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

trivial

adjective
triv·​i·​al ˈtriv-ē-əl How to pronounce trivial (audio)
1
2
: of little worth or importance : insignificant
a trivial mistake
trivially adverb

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