from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of little value or importance; paltry. synonym: trivial.
  • adjective Petty; small-minded.
  • noun A Spanish-American half-real piece formerly used in parts of the southern United States.
  • noun A five-cent piece.
  • noun Something of very little value; a trifle.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Formerly, in Florida, Louisiana, and adjacent regions, the Spanish half-real, equal to 1⅙ of a dollar, or 6¼ cents; now, the five-cent piece or any similar small coin.
  • Small; petty; of little value or account: as, picayune politics.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Local, U.S. A small coin of the value of six and a quarter cents. See fippenny bit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Petty, trivial; of little consequence; small and of little importance; picayunish;
  • adjective something not worth arguing about.
  • adjective an argument, fact, corner case, or other issue raised (often intentionally) that distracts from a larger issue at hand or does not change a primary supposition, outcome, postulate, premise, conclusion, hypothesis, judgment or recommendation;
  • adjective small-minded: being childishly spiteful, tending to go on about unimportant things.
  • noun US, archaic A small coin of the value of six and a quarter cents; a fippenny bit.
  • noun A five-cent piece.
  • noun Something of very little value; a trifle: not worth a picayune.

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

  • adjective (informal) small and of little importance


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

[Louisiana French picaillon, small coin, from French, from Provençal picaioun, from picaio, money, perhaps from Old Provençal piquar, to jingle, clink, from Vulgar Latin *piccāre, to pierce; see pique.]


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word picayune.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Something of small value; of something petty or worthless.

    To judge from a hunt around in newspaper files and such, this word might now seem to be rare, though I am reliably informed that it is by no means defunct. All the recent examples I can find, without exception, refer to one or other of the American journals whose names include it, in particular the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

    An odd name for a newspaper, you may feel. But when its precursor, the New Orleans Picayune, began life on 25 January 1837, the main sense of the word was that of a small coin. It was at first applied in Florida and Louisiana to the Spanish half-real, worth just over six cents; in the early nineteenth century it was transferred to the US five-cent piece. The proprietors of the new newspaper gave it that name because that's what a copy cost.

    The Beeville Bee-Picayune in Texas took its name from the New Orleans newspaper more than a century ago as a sort of homage. Could this be true also of other journals that include the word in their titles? The town of Picayune, Mississippi, was given its name by Eliza Jane Poitevent Nicholson, the owner and publisher of the New Orleans Daily Picayune, who grew up in nearby Pearlington.

    Scholars are less than totally certain about where the word came from, though the immediate origin is the French picaillon for an old copper coin of Savoy (in modern French, picaillons is a slangy term for money). In turn that derived from Provençal picaioun. Here the trail peters out, but that might have been taken from Italian piccolo, little or small, or more probably from Provençal piquar, to clink or sound.

    (from World Wide Words)

    May 22, 2008

  • Very interesting Whichbe.

    May 27, 2008

  • See also the word history on picaioun. :)

    August 30, 2008