from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of small importance; trivial: a petty grievance.
  • adj. Marked by narrowness of mind, ideas, or views.
  • adj. Marked by meanness or lack of generosity, especially in trifling matters.
  • adj. Secondary in importance or rank; subordinate. See Synonyms at trivial.
  • adj. Law Variant of petit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Little, small, secondary in rank or importance.
  • adj. Insignificant, trifling, or inconsiderable.
  • adj. Narrow-minded, small-minded.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Little; trifling; inconsiderable; also, inferior; subordinate

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Small; little; trifling; trivial; inconsiderable or insignificant; of little account: as, petty payments; a petty quarrel.
  • Of minor importance or gravity; not heinous or serious: as, petty trespass; a petty crime.
  • Inferior as regards rank, power, capacity, possessions, etc.; not of great importance, standing, or rank: as, a petty prince; a petty proprietor.
  • n. A junior scholar in a grammar-school; a little child attending school.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. inferior in rank or status
  • adj. (informal) small and of little importance
  • n. larceny of property having a value less than some amount (the amount varies by locale)
  • adj. contemptibly narrow in outlook


Middle English peti, from Old French, variant of petit; see petit.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French petit, English since the late 14th century. The disparaging meaning develops during the 16th century. (Wiktionary)



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