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.

Examples of trivial in a Sentence

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 This may seem trivial, but such minute details go a long way in guaranteeing the best poker online experience. Sponsored Content, The Mercury News, 8 Jan. 2024 Possible solution: filtering out queries that might violate copyright For filtering out problematic queries, some low hanging fruit is trivial to implement (for example, don’t generate Batman). Gary Marcus, IEEE Spectrum, 6 Jan. 2024 The risk or incursion was not much examined at the time, because the new toy then seemed trivial and warm-hearted. Michelle Orange, Harper's Magazine, 12 Dec. 2023 Taking control will ensure you don’t get sidetracked by trivial matters or interference. Eugenia Last, The Mercury News, 24 Jan. 2024 The crux of the tragedy is a trivial element of roadwork. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 5 Jan. 2024 Even particularly bad years like 2009 look trivial by comparison. Matthew Desmond, The New York Review of Books, 28 Dec. 2023 This is trivial compared with the real harm this technology can do. Will Oremus, Washington Post, 20 Jan. 2024 And remember, that’s only after the Trump organization was convicted of tax felonies in an earlier New York state criminal trial — the amounts were trivial, but the media–Democrat script will be to repeat the word felony and not dawdle over the details. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 16 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'trivial.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 26 Feb. 2024.

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
Etymology

from Latin trivialis "found everywhere, commonplace, trivial," from trivium "a place where three roads meet," from tri- "three" and via "way"

Word Origin
The words trivial and trivia can be traced back to the Latin noun trivium, meaning "a place where three roads meet." The Latin word was made from tri-, meaning "three," and via "way, road." The adjective form of trivium was trivialis. It was used to mean "common, ordinary." This sense probably developed from the notion that road junctions function as meeting places for people to exchange ordinary bits of news. In the 16th century, the adjective trivial came to be used in English with the same meaning. In time, this adjective also took on the sense of "of little worth or importance." This is its main meaning today. It wasn't until the 1920s that the word trivia began being used for "unimportant matters." This word is the plural form of the Latin word trivium.

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