To pettifog is to argue over small, unimportant issues. If you and your brother pettifog over who gets to sit in the front seat when your mom offers a ride to school, you may both end up taking the bus instead.

If you're looking for a colorful, old-fashioned way to say "quibble" or "squabble," pettifog is the word for you. It shares a root with petty, or "trivial," but otherwise its origin is a bit hazy. Experts see a connection to pettifactor, "legal agent who undertakes small cases." And a pettifogger, rather than a quibbler, is a sneaky lawyer, or one who "deals with petty cases."

Definitions of pettifog

v argue over petty things

bicker, brabble, niggle, quibble, squabble
Type of:
argue, contend, debate, fence
have an argument about something

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.