Definition of picayune in US English:



North American
  • Petty; worthless.

    ‘the picayune squabbling of party politicians’
    • ‘The cyclist behind me lands the jump but slams on his brakes and skids to a stop next to my picayune wreck.’
    • ‘Don't think this was a picayune issue with no larger consequences.’
    • ‘The exercise of judicial discretion in a case such as the present may seem at first blush a picayune matter.’
    • ‘I don't suppose many alpinists would have committed such a picayune ascent to paper, but I found the exercise useful.’
    • ‘In short, save for the picayune fact he had no bus-driving credentials, he was the perfect bus driver.’
    • ‘From all accounts, they are motivated solely by the desire to protect the Dear Leader from any picayune criticism of his divinely inspired policies.’
    • ‘Having fewer picayune regulations might lead coaches to commit more strongly to those that matter.’
    • ‘Yet beside these we find other sources suggesting that it is not appropriate to be too picayune.’
    • ‘Cogitating, considering, and contemplating about the grand scheme of things not to mention picayune matters is cheap.’
    • ‘Caught between the work rules of the teachers' unions and the picayune regulations of the central bureaucracy, they find themselves imprisoned in a mechanical system organized like an industrial factory.’
    • ‘His campaign has been forced to hire paid signature gatherers in a number of states and to shell out huge sums to fend off constant and frequently picayune legal challenges to its petitions.’
    • ‘This is not a picayune instance but, in my experience, the industry norm.’
    • ‘The cameras in the classroom are teaching students to be ever more obedient; that is, to internalize the rules and to accept as legitimate an authority that polices even the most picayune infractions.’
    • ‘You may have noticed I generally stay away from picayune liturgical controversies.’
    • ‘Governments now claim to have a mandate for a battery of items in the manifesto, however picayune each may be.’
    trivial, unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential, petty, minor, of little account, of no account, of little consequence, of no consequence, not worth mentioning, not worth bothering about, light, footling, fiddling, pettifogging, incidental
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North American
  • 1A small coin of little value, especially a 5-cent piece.

    • ‘Occasionally, he says, in delightful retrospect, they gave him a "picayune or bit."’
    • ‘While still agonizing over this traumatic separation, he is approached by a white man who offers him a picayune.’
    • ‘He removed the watch from his wrist and showed the sphere, a copy of a Spanish coin, the picayune, that was circulated in New Orleans when the newspaper was founded, in 1837, and whose value covered the price of a copy of the newspaper.’
    1. 1.1informal An insignificant person or thing.
      insignificant person, lightweight, mediocrity, nobody, gnat, insect, cipher
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Early 19th century: from French picaillon, denoting a Piedmontese copper coin, also used to mean ‘cash’, from Provençal picaioun, of unknown ultimate origin.