The adjective is derived from Middle English peti, pety (“little, small; minor”) [and other forms], from Anglo-Norman petit, Middle French petit, and Old French peti, petit, pitet (“young; little, small; inferior; insignificant”) (modern French petit), ultimately of imitative origin. It is no longer thought that the word is derived from Celtic. Doublet of petit and petite.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈpɛ.ti/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈpɛ.ti/, [ˈpʰɛ.ɾi]
Audio (GA) (file)
- Homophones: Petty, pedi (GA)
- Rhymes: -ɛti
- Hyphenation: pet‧ty
- (often derogatory)
- Having little or no importance. [from 16th c.]
- Synonyms: see Thesaurus:insignificant
- Antonyms: see Thesaurus:important
- a petty fault petty squabbles
- c. 1596–1598 (date written), W[illiam] Shakespeare, The Excellent History of the Merchant of Venice. […] (First Quarto), [London]: […] J[ames] Roberts [for Thomas Heyes], published 1600, →OCLC, [Act I, scene i]:
- Your minde is toſſing on the Ocean, / There vvhere your Argoſies vvith portly ſayle, / Like Signiors and rich Burgars on the flood, / Or as it vvere the Pageants of the ſea, / Doe ouer-peere the petty traffiquers / That curſie to them, do them reuerence / As they flie by them vvith their vvouen vvings.
- c. 1615–1620 (date written), Tho[mas] Middleton, The Mayor of Quinborough: A Comedy. […], London: […] Henry Herringman, […], published 1661, →OCLC, Act V, scene ii, page 72:
- I could have liv'd like Hengiſt, King of Kent, / London, York, Lincoln, and VVincheſter, / Under the povver of my Command, the portion / Of my moſt juſt deſert, enjoyed novv / By pettier Deſervers.
- 1668, John Dryden, Annus Mirabilis: The Year of Wonders, M. DC. LXVI. […], London: […] Henry Herringman, […], →OCLC, stanza 213, page 54:
- His birth, perhaps, ſome petty Village hides, / And ſets his Cradle out of Fortune's way: […]
- 1678, John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That which is to Come: […], London: […] Nath[aniel] Ponder […], →OCLC; reprinted in The Pilgrim’s Progress (The Noel Douglas Replicas), London: Noel Douglas, […], 1928, →OCLC, page 96:
- Yea, he did hold me to it at that rate alſo, about a great many more things than here I relate; as, that it was a ſhame to ſit vvhining and mourning under a Sermon, and a ſhame to come ſighing and groaning home. That it was a ſhame to ask my Neighbour forgiveneſs for petty faults, or to make restitution vvhere I have taken from any: […]
- 1736, [Gauthier de Costes, seigneur de la Calprenède], “Part III. Book III.”, in Robert Loveday, transl., Hymen’s Præludia: Or, Love’s Master-piece: Being that So-much-admir’d Romance, Intitled, Cleopatra. […], volume II, London: […] J. Watson, […], →OCLC, page 282:
- [H]is VVords vvere ranged vvith more care and leſs confidence than before, and in all his Actions he eſſay'd to beſpeak me an opinion, that the VVorld could not offer him an employment vvhich vvas not leſs important and conſiderable in his thoughts, than the pettieſt occaſion to ſerve and pleaſe me.
- 1821, Lord Byron, “Cain, a Mystery”, in Sardanapalus, a Tragedy; The Two Foscari, a Tragedy; Cain, a Mystery, London: John Murray, […], →OCLC, Act II, scene ii, page 390:
- I show thee what thy predecessors are, / And what they were thou feelest, in degree / Inferior as thy petty feelings and / Thy pettier portion of the immortal part / Of high intelligence and earthly strength.
- 1848, Charles Kingsley, Junior, The Saint’s Tragedy; or, The True Story of Elizabeth of Hungary, […], London: John W[illiam] Parker, […], →OCLC, Act II, scene xi, page 138:
- Who would rot on the moor-side forgotten, / Slaughtered bickering for some petty town, / While the rich East blooms fragrant before us, / And all fairy land beckons us on?
- 1996, Jonathan Herman, “The Text Translation: ‘Talks and Parables of Chuang Tzu’. [XVIII. The Death Song.]”, in I and Tao: Martin Buber’s Encounter with Chuang Tzu, Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, →ISBN, page 36:
- The pettiest creature in Heaven will be the most noble of Earth, and the most noble of Earth the pettiest in Heaven.
- 2018 February, Robert Draper, “They are Watching You—and Everything Else on the Planet: Technology and Our Increasing Demand for Security have Put Us All under Surveillance. Is Privacy Becoming just a Memory?”, in National Geographic, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 14 June 2018:
- Later today in Finsbury Park, the cameras would spend hours panning across 35,000 festivalgoers in search of pickpockets, drunken brawlers, and other assorted agents of petty mischief.
- Of persons or their behaviour: marked by or reflective of undesirably limited interests, sympathies, or views; begrudging, selfish, small-minded; also, preoccupied with subjects having little or no importance and not mindful of broader concerns. [from 16th c.]
- Synonyms: grudgeful, grudging
- Antonym: broad-minded
- Such literature may well be anathema to those who are too docile and petty for their own good.
- That corporation is only slightly pettier than they are greedy, and they are overdue to reap the consequences.
- 1856 March 6, Florence Nightingale, “The ‘Confidential Report’ [Letter to Uncle Sam Smith]”, in Sue M. Goldie, editor, Florence Nightingale: Letters from the Crimea 1854–1856, Manchester, New York, N.Y.: Mandolin, Manchester University Press, published 1997, →ISBN, page 225:
- I will give you the slightest, pettiest instance of the hindrance which the pettiest official can make out here, if so minded. […] [T]he Senior Purveyor at Balaclava refuses to cash my Cheques, for no other reason discoverable than the love of petty annoyance & the hope of injuring my credit, in the minds of ignorant servants.
- 1908, E[dward] M[organ] Forster, “Lying to Cecil”, in A Room with a View, London: Edward Arnold, →OCLC, part II, page 264:
- He began to walk up and down the room, and she grew more and more vexed at his dignified behaviour. She had counted on his being petty. It would have made things easier for her. By a cruel irony she was drawing but all that was finest in his disposition.
- 2013, Tim Parks, “Verona–Milano”, in Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo, London: Harvill Secker, →ISBN, page 87:
- But while in the beginning those political criteria [in Italian railway construction] were grandiose and national, just and even necessary, later they were to become pettier and pettier, to the point that they were almost always more regional than rational.
- (informal) Inclined to cause frustration or annoyance to others out of spite over minor grievances; extremely vindictive.
- Synonyms: see Thesaurus:vengeful
- My cousin is so petty—I forgot his birthday and he's been making snarky comments all week.
- 2020 November 14, Lisa Allardice, “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ’America under Trump felt like a personal loss’”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian, London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-05-29:
- All of the horrors that happen in the book are based on real incidents, including the burning of her father's books in their front yard. "It was just a very petty, ugly thing to do, to say 'Fuck you' to academics and intellectuals," she says. " I can't imagine losing my books, the books I love."
- Having little or no importance. [from 16th c.]
- (historical) Of or relating to the lowest grade or level of school; junior, primary.
- 1756 June 13, J[ames] M[urphy] French, “[Letters, Correspondence, and Poetry, of James Murphy French.] To Henry Duncombe, Esq.”, in Jesse Foot, The Life of Arthur Murphy, Esq., London: […] [F]or J. Faulder, […]; by John Nichols and Son, […], published 1811, →OCLC, page 123:
- Friends are separated for long portions of time even while they live; at last they take their leave for ever: although, I remember, when you left me in the petty form at Westminster, I soon afterwards found you in a higher remove: and this world is only the petty form of the universe; so I not only expect to pass a social hour with you here, but am in hopes of a merry meeting in a better place; […]
- 1813, M[ichael] Russel, “[Appendix.] No. II. On Westminster School.”, in View of the System of Education at Present Pursued in the Schools and Universities of Scotland. […], Edinburgh: […] John Moir, […], sold by Bell & Bradfute, […], →OCLC, page xx:
- This finishes their education in the under school, in which they have now been three years and a half, and they are next moved into the upper, and probably at the age of ten or eleven; six or seven being the age at which boys are generally sent into the petty form.
- 1819 July 5, “Fulham. [The Latymer, or Boys Charity School, at Hammersmith.]”, in Second Report of the Commissioners Appointed in Pursuance of an Act of the 58th Year of His Present Majesty, Cap. 91. Intituled An Act for Appointing Commissioners to Enquire Concerning Charities in England, for the Education of the Poor (House of Lords, the Sessional Papers 1801–1833; 100, part II), [London: House of Commons of the United Kingdom], →OCLC, page 86:
- [T]he feoffees should cause the boys to be put to some petty school to learn to read English till they attain 13, and to instruct them in some part of God's true religion.
- 1846, William Henry Teale, “The Life of Thomas Wilson, D.D., Bishop of Sodor and Man”, in Lives of English Divines; […], London: James Burns, […], →OCLC, pages 305–306:
- [B]y the assistance of that truly Christian gentlewoman, the Lady Elizabeth Hastings, he increased the number of petty schools throughout the island.
- 1862 June 28, James Augustus Hessey (witness), “Minutes of Evidence. Merchant Taylors’.”, in Report of Her Majesty’s Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the Revenues and Management of Certain Colleges and Schools, and the Studies Pursued and Instruction Given therein; […], volume VI (Evidence, Part 2), London: […] George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, […] [f]or Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, published 1864, →OCLC, paragraph 346, page 126, column 1:
- [O]riginally there were six forms in the school; of these the highest was called the Sixth. Afterwards, the number of forms was increased to eight; the highest was still called the Sixth, but the Fourth form was divided into two, the Fourth and the Fourth Division, and the First into two also, the First and the Petty or Anonymous form. […] Some alterations were made, then or soon after, lower down in the school. The Fifth form was subdivided into the upper and lower Fifth; the Division into the upper and lower Division; and the Petty form was abolished.
- (obsolete except in set phrases)
- Little or small in size.
- c. 1606 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Macbeth”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene v], page 150, column 1:
- To morrow, and to morrow, and to morrow, / Creepes in this petty pace from day to day, / To the laſt Syllable of Recorded time: / And all our yeſterdayes, haue lighted Fooles / The way to duſty death.
- Secondary in importance or rank; minor, subordinate.
- c. 1590–1591 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene i], page 32, column 2:
- 3. Out[law]. […] My ſelfe vvas from Verona baniſhed, / For practiſing to ſteale avvay a Lady, / And heire and Neece, alide vnto the Duke. / […] / 1. Out[law]. And I, for ſuch like petty crimes as theſe.
- 1655, Thomas Fuller, “Section IV. To the Master, Wardens, and All the Members of the Honourable Company of Mercers, of London.”, in James Nichols, editor, The Church History of Britain, […], new edition, volume III, London: […] [James Nichols] for Thomas Tegg and Son, […], published 1837, →OCLC, book IX, subsection 3–7 (Brown’s Opinions. […]), page 64:
- With his [Robert Brown's] assistant, Richard Harrison, a petty pedagogue, they inveighed against bishops, ecclesiastical courts, ceremonies, ordination of ministers, and what not; fancying here on earth a platform of a perfect church, without any faults (understand it thus, save those that are made by themselves) therein.
- 1671, John Milton, “Samson Agonistes, […]”, in Paradise Regain’d. A Poem. In IV Books. To which is Added, Samson Agonistes, London: […] J. M[acock] for John Starkey […], →OCLC, page 37, lines 530–532:
- Fearleſs of danger, like a petty God / I walk'd about admir'd of all and dreaded / On hoſtile ground, none daring my affront.
- 1711 June 1 (Gregorian calendar), Joseph Addison, “MONDAY, May 21, 1711”, in The Spectator, number 70; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, […], volume I, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, →OCLC, page 425:
- At the time the poem we are now treating of was written, the dissensions of the barons, who were then so many petty princes, ran very high, whether they quarrelled among themselves, or with their neighbours, and produced unspeakable calamities to the country.
- 1711 December 8, [Jonathan Swift], The Conduct of the Allies, and of the Late Ministry, in Beginning and Carrying on the Present War, 4th edition, London: […] John Morphew […], published 1711, →OCLC, page 53:
- Can there an Example be given in the whole Courſe of this War, where we have treated the pettieſt Prince, with whom we had to deal, in ſo contemptuous a manner?
- 1750, [Charles-Louis] de Secondat, Baron [de La Brède et] de Montesquieu, “Of the Communication of Power”, in Thomas Nugent, transl., The Spirit of Laws. […], volume I, London: […] J[ohn] Nourse, and P. Vaillant, […], →OCLC, book V (That the Laws Given by the Legislature Ought to be Relative to the Nature of Government), page 94:
- Under moderate governments, the law is prudent in all its parts, perfectly well known, and the pettieſt magiſtrates are capable of following it. But in a deſpotic ſtate where the prince's will is the law, though the prince were wiſe, yet how could the magiſtrate follow a will he does not know?
- 1764 December 19 (indicated as 1765), Oliver Goldsmith, The Traveller, or A Prospect of Society. A Poem. […], London: […] J[ohn] Newbery, […], →OCLC, pages 19–20:
- Fear, pity, juſtice, indignation ſtart, / Tear off reſerve, and bare my ſwelling heart; / 'Till half a patriot, half a coward grown, / I fly from petty tyrants to the throne.
- 1769, William Blackstone, “Of Principals and Accessories”, in Commentaries on the Laws of England, book IV (Of Public Wrongs), Oxford, Oxfordshire: […] Clarendon Press, →OCLC, page 36:
- [I]n treſpaſs all are principals, becauſe the law, quae de minimis non curat, does not deſcend to diſtinguiſh the different ſhades of guilt in petty miſdemeſnors. It is a maxim, that acceſſorius ſequitur naturam ſui principalis: and therefore an acceſſory cannot be guilty of a higher crime than his principal; being only puniſhed, as a partaker of his guilt. So that if a ſervant inſtigates a ſtranger to kill his maſter, this being murder in the ſtranger as principal, of courſe the ſervant is acceſſory only to the crime of murder; though, had he been preſent and aſſiſting, he would have been guilty as principal of petty treaſon, and the ſtranger of murder.
- 1824, Geoffrey Crayon [pseudonym; Washington Irving], “Buckthorne, or The Young Man of Great Expectations”, in Tales of a Traveller, part 2 (Buckthorne and His Friends), Philadelphia, Pa.: H[enry] C[harles] Carey & I[saac] Lea, […], →OCLC, pages 116–117:
- The ire of the monarch was not to be appeased. He had suffered in his person, and he had suffered in his purse; his dignity too had been insulted, and that went for something; for dignity is always more irascible the more petty the potentate.
- Little or small in size.
petty (plural petties)
- (dialectal, euphemistic, informal) An outbuilding used as a lavatory; an outhouse, a privy.
- Synonyms: see Thesaurus:outhouse
- 1848 September 27, Maria Josepha Stanley, Baroness Stanley of Alderley, “[Letter 245]”, in Nancy Mitford, editor, The Ladies of Alderley: Being the Letters between Maria Josepha, Lady Stanley of Alderley, and Her Daughter-in-law Henrietta Maria Stanley during the Years 1841–1850, London: Hamish Hamilton, published 1967, →OCLC, page 172:
- If these houses had been built by his Lordship every one would have had his petty, at all events dividing the odour & also having a chance that some of the occupiers would clean out—but a common occupation is nobody's business, unless the owner of all the buildings takes it in hand.
- 1852, Robert Rawlinson, “Appendix”, in Report to the General Board of Health on a Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewerage, Drainage, and Supply of Water, and the Sanitary Condition of the Inhabitants of the Township of Barton-upon-Irwell, in the County Palatine of Lancaster, London: […] George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, […] for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, →OCLC, page 47:
- Cottages occupied by Betty Hines and others; petty in a very filthy state, wants walling. Two petties belonging to Mr. James Parr to be walled, and one next Thomas Wilkinson's to be removed further off.
- 1868 January 1, “The Sanitary Condition of Manchester”, in The Manchester Monthly Record and Advertiser, Manchester: Abel Heywood and Son, […]; London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co.; and Heywood and Co., […], →OCLC, page 32:
- We have an evil in the excretal deposits, and in the ashes an antidote; but instead of applying the antidote, we keep the evil to itself, and suffer it to exercise its unmitigated power over the health of the household. […] Now the simple remedy for this would be, to construct the petties with several steps upward and backward, so as to be more over the centre of the ash-pit. […] Such an arrangement would ensure the mingling of the ashes with the excreta, by which the latter would be deodorised, and the evil suppressed.
- (historical) A class or school for young schoolboys.
- 1808–1810 (date written), William Hickey, “Early School Days”, in Alfred Spencer, editor, Memoirs of William Hickey, 7th edition, volumes I (1749–1775), London: Hurst & Blackett, […], published [1913?], →OCLC, page 13:
- […] I took my seat in what was denominated, "The Idle Class", that is, at the very bottom of the school, where all those who have not received some previous instruction in Latin are placed. I however soon got out of that disgraceful and ignorant form, passed with rapidity and eclat the under and upper petty, and entered into the upper first, […]
- 1854, Arthur Pendennis [pseudonym; William Makepeace Thackeray], “In which the Author and the Hero Resume Their Acquaintance”, in The Newcomes: Memoirs of a Most Respectable Family, volume I, London: Bradbury and Evans, […], →OCLC, page 33:
- [S]uch a difference of age between lads at a public school puts intimacy out of the question—a junior ensign being no more familiar with the commander-in-chief at the Horse-Guards; or a barrister on his first circuit with my Lord Chief Justice on the bench, than the newly-breeched infant in the Petties with a senior boy in a tailed coat.
- (obsolete, chiefly in the plural, also figurative) A little schoolboy, either in grade or size.
- 1589, attributed to Thomas Nashe, “To the Discreet and Indifferent Reader”, in Martins Months Minde, that is, A Certaine Report, and True Description of the Death, and Funerals, of Olde Martin Marre-prelate, the Great Makebate of England, and Father of the Factions. […]; republished in Alexander B[alloch] Grosart, editor, The Complete Works of Thomas Nashe. […] (The Huth Library), volume I, [London; Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire: […] Hazell, Watson, and Viney] for private circulation only, 1883–1884, →OCLC, page 150:
- [S]ome of them, which were the Petties and Punies of that ſchoole, whereof old Martin [Marprelate] was the maſter; though then he was but as ſome blinde and obſcure pariſh Clarke that taught in the Belfrie, not preſuming, as hee doth nowe, to preſſe into the Church, (that place in reſpect of the appurtenances being fitter for him) began but rawly with their little a, b, c.
- 1659, T[itus] Livius [i.e., Livy], “[Book III]”, in Philemon Holland, transl., The Romane Historie […], London: […] W. Hunt, for George Sawbridge, […], →OCLC, page 97:
- As the maiden therefore vvas comming into the market place, (for there vvere the ſchools for peties kept, of reading and vvriting) the Decemvirs man (a broker to ſerve his maſters luſt) laid hold upon her, avovving that ſhe vvas his bond-ſervants daughter, and therefore his bond-maid: commanding her to follovv him, and threatning beſides, that if ſhe made any ſtays, he vvould have her avvay perforce.
- 1849, P. J. Mannex, “History, Topography, and Directory, of Furness and Cartmel, in Lancashire”, in History, Topography, and Directory, of Westmorland; and Lonsdale North of the Sands, in Lancashire; […], London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., […]; Beverley, Yorkshire: […] W. B. Johnson, […], →OCLC, page 377:
- The Free Grammar School, at Cartmel, was originally only a parochial seminary, under the superintendence of the churchwardens and sidesmen of the parish, who, for a series of years, hired a master to whom they paid the interest of a few small bequests, the remainder of his salary being made up by quarterage from the scholars, except the children of poor parents, who were taught free. In 1635, the quarterage from grammarians was sixpence, and for petties, little ones, fourpence. […] In 1674, the quarterage for grammarians was raised to 8d., but no alteration was made for the petties.
- ^ “petī, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
- “petty, adj. and n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; “petty, adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
- ^ “petit, adj. and n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; “petit, adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
- petty (disambiguation) on Wikipedia.Wikipedia
- “petty”, in The Century Dictionary […], New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911, →OCLC.
- “petty”, in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam, 1913, →OCLC.
petty (plural pettyek)
|Inflection (stem in -e-, front unrounded harmony)|
possessive - singular
possessive - plural
|Possessive forms of petty|
|possessor||single possession||multiple possessions|
|1st person sing.||pettyem||pettyeim|
|2nd person sing.||pettyed||pettyeid|
|3rd person sing.||pettye||pettyei|
|1st person plural||pettyünk||pettyeink|
|2nd person plural||pettyetek||pettyeitek|
|3rd person plural||pettyük||pettyeik|
- hétpettyes katicabogár (“seven-spot[ted] ladybird/ladybug”)