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petty officer, n.

Forms:  see petty adj.   and officer n.(Show Less)

 1. gen. A minor or inferior officer. See also petit officer n. at petit adj. and n. Special uses 2.

1587   R. Holinshed et al. Hist. Eng. (new ed.) iv. xx. 53/2 in Holinshed's Chron. (new ed.) I   Petie officers to oversee and overrule the people.
1598   R. Barret Theorike & Pract. Mod. Warres iii. 45   There be many petie officers vsed amongst vs.
a1616   Shakespeare Measure for Measure (1623) ii. ii. 115   Euery pelting petty Officer Would vse his heauen for thunder.
1694   W. Burnaby tr. Petronius Satyr (new ed.) 142   He found the Door so barr'd: But the Petty Officer he brought, with an Iron Crow, forc'd it open.
1722   in 15th Rep. Royal Comm. Hist. MSS (1897) App. vi. 37   Here has been a great deal of riotous doing in several elections, even of petty officers, as well as members for Parliament.
1776   Gibbon Decline & Fall I. iii. 76   The birth of Vespasian was mean; his grandfather had been a private soldier, his father a petty officer of the revenue.
1847   J. W. Buhoup Narr. Central Division 48   These petty officers would exercise their authority by refusing them.
1850   J. Dunham Jrnl. Voy. 34   The American captains were quartered with the petty officers, such as midshipmen, captain's clerks, &c.
1913   D. H. Lawrence Sons & Lovers ix. 246   The army had not really done him any good. He resented bitterly the authority of the petty officers.
1984   S. Terkel Good War (1985) iv. i. 395   We had..petty officers but the men considered them air-bangers. Brown noses.

1587—1984(Hide quotations)


 2. spec. Freq. with capital initials. A rank of non-commissioned officer in the navy, above leading seaman or seaman and below chief petty officer, corresponding loosely to a corporal or sergeant in the army.

1748   T. Smollett Roderick Random I. xxvii. 243,   I was not altogether without mortifications, which I not only suffered from the rude insults of the sailors, and petty officers,..but also from the disposition of Morgan.
1756   C. Holmes in J. S. McLennan Louisbourg (1918) 211   One of my Petty Officers I have sent as Master of the Schooner.
1768   J. Byron Narr. Patagonia 28   It was very hard upon us petty officers.
1818   U.S. Navy: Rules, Regs. & Instructions 26   Each of the petty officers thus sent from the ships, shall receive eighteen cents, and the men twelve cents per diem.
1840   R. H. Dana Two Years before Mast xx. 60   He had been a petty officer on board the British frigate Dublin.
1867   W. H. Smyth & E. Belcher Sailor's Word-bk.   Petty officer, a divisional seaman of the first class, ranking with a sergeant or corporal.
1916   ‘Taffrail’ in Royal Mag. Dec. 99/2   ‘Got a bleat, 'ave yer?’ growled an unsympathetic Petty Officer.
1976   P. C. Smith Fighting Flotilla viii. 165   As I was duty Petty Officer, I had to detail duty men to keep watch on the fo'c'sle as anchor watch-men.
2001   Outside Oct. 82/1   A Navy policeman, Petty Officer Larry Roberts, handcuffed me..and walked me through the swamp to a military road.

1748—2001(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, December 2005).

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