Scottish (of Norman origin): probably a nickname for a small man, from Old French petit ‘little’, ‘small’ + cru ‘growth’ (past participle of creistre ‘to grow, increase’). Another possible explanation is that it is a nickname for a man with long thin legs, from Old French pie de grue ‘crane’s foot’. The surname is also established in Ireland, having been taken there first by Scottish settlers, and then also by Huguenots who went to County Tyrone in the 17th century.
Recorded in the spellings of Pettegre, Petegre, Pettigrew, Petigrew, Petticrew and Petegrew, this is a Medieval 13th century English surname, but of French origins. The phrase "petit cru", meaning in this context, small person, was introduced into Britain after the 1066 Norman invasion, when French became the official language. Originally "petit cru" was used as a nickname of endearment, similar to "young son", the later surname "Youngson". Victorian researchers however concluded that "petit cru" was a nickname for a dwarf, but whilst this may have applied in a few cases, the name could hardly have achieved its level of popularity had the origin either been uncomplimentary, or so restrictive.The name is particularly well recorded in East Anglia, and all the early recordings come from this region. Examples include Roger Petitcru of Bury St Edmunds in the year 1268, John Petegrew, in the rolls known as the "Feudal Aids" for the county of Suffolk, in 1346, and Robert Pedegrewe, of the same county in the Subsidy Rolls of 1568. Thomas Pettigrew \(1791 - 1865) was an early archaeologist and senior surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital, London, in 1835. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Peticruw which was dated 1227, in the Assize Court rolls of Colchester, Essex, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman" 1216 - 1272.
- Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4