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belittle

[bih-lit-l]
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verb (used with object), be·lit·tled, be·lit·tling.
  1. to regard or portray as less impressive or important than appearances indicate; depreciate; disparage.

Origin of belittle

An Americanism dating back to 1775–85; be- + little
Related formsbe·lit·tle·ment, nounbe·lit·tler, noun

Synonyms

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minimize, decry, deprecate, deride, scorn, dismiss.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for be-little

Historical Examples

  • The Baroness, when she desired to be-little the doctor, always called her a female.

    Is He Popenjoy?</p>

    Anthony Trollope

  • In saying these things there is no desire to be-little the reputation of any man; the facts were as here stated.

    The Bbur-nma in English</p>

    Babur, Emperor of Hindustan


British Dictionary definitions for be-little

belittle

verb (tr)
  1. to consider or speak of (something) as less valuable or important than it really is; disparage
  2. to cause to make small; dwarf
Derived Formsbelittlement, nounbelittler, nounbelittlingly, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for be-little

belittle

v.

1781, "to make small," from be- + little (v.); first recorded in writings of Thomas Jefferson (and probably coined by him), who was roundly execrated for it in England:

Belittle! What an expression! It may be an elegant one in Virginia, and even perfectly intelligible; but for our part, all we can do is to guess at its meaning. For shame, Mr. Jefferson! ["European Magazine and London Review," 1787, reporting on "Notes on the State of Virginia"; to guess was considered another barbarous Yankeeism.]

Jefferson used it to characterize Buffon's view that American life was stunted by nature, which he was refuting. The figurative sense of "depreciate, scorn as worthless" (as the reviewers did to this word) is from 1797. Related: Belittled; belittling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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