Where does the phrase “to split hairs” come from and What does “split hairs” mean?

The phrase “to split hairs” means: To quibble; to make fine distinctions; to cavil or become captious over trifles.

Thanks to the great degree of refinement in modern equipment, a hair may be split or divided lengthwise into numerous fine filaments.

In fact, not long since, we were told of a drill so fine that a series of minute holes could be bored transversely across a hair.

But in the seventeenth, the eighteenth, and even the nineteenth century it was still considered no more possible to split a hair than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

Hence, anyone arguing over trifles or quibbling about inconsequential matters was likened to anyone who would attempt to split a hair.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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