A Word A Day : Trivial

Saturday, 26th April 2008 : Today's Word is ...


( Adjective )

Pronunciation : trí-vvee-al


1. lacking in seriousness, importance, or value

2. lacking any qualities that are unique or interesting

3. relating to or concerned with trivia

4. Mathematics with zero values : describes the simplest possible case mathematically, especially with all mathematical variables equal to zero


Middle English trivialle, of the trivium (from Medieval Latin triviālis, from trivium, trivium) and Latin triviālis, ordinary (from trivium, crossroads)


The word trivial entered Middle English with senses quite different from its most common contemporary ones. We find in a work from 1432-50 mention of the arte trivialle, an allusion to the three liberal arts that made up the trivium, the lower division of the seven liberal arts taught in medieval universities—grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The history of trivial goes back to the Latin word trivium, formed from the prefix trithree and via, road. Trivium thus meant the meeting place of three roads, especially as a place of public resort. The publicness of such a place also gave the word a pejorative sense that we express in the phrase the gutter, as in His manners were formed in the gutter. The Latin adjective triviālis, derived from trivium, thus meant appropriate to the street corner, commonplace, vulgar. Trivial is first recorded in English with a sense identical to that of triviālis in 1589. Shortly after that trivial is recorded in the sense most familiar to us, of little importance or significance, making it a word now used of things less weighty than grammar, rhetoric, and logic.


inconsequent, inconsequential, insignificant, little, unimportant


consequential, important, significant, useful, valuable, weighty, worthwhile

Contextual Examples:

• The difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to that which is unknown.

• The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons, at first composing satires, as the former did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men.

• You may imagine the young people brushed up after the labours of the day, and making this novelty, as they would make any novelty, the excuse for walking together and enjoying a trivial flirtation.

Related Words:

trivia : Noun

trivially : Adverb

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