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[smawl-tahym] /ˈsmɔlˈtaɪm/
of modest or insignificant size, importance, or influence:
a small-time politician.
Origin of small-time
First recorded in 1910-15
Related forms
small-timer, noun

small time

noun, (in vaudeville)
a circuit of minor theaters giving three or more shows daily.
An Americanism dating back to 1920-25 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for small-time
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It's no job at all to run a bluff on a small-time crook like that.

    The Brand of Silence Harrington Strong
  • The old school spirit was okay for football games, and even for small-time wars, but he had never felt much of it.

    Way of a Rebel Walter M. Miller
  • You may have a year of doing three or four shows a day on "small-time," as it is called, which is splendid experience for you.

British Dictionary definitions for small-time


(informal) insignificant; minor: a small-time criminal
Derived Forms
small-timer, noun
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
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Word Origin and History for small-time

1910, originally theater slang for lower-salaried circuits, or ones requiring more daily performances; from noun phrase (also 1910). Cf. big time.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for small-time



Characteristic of the small time; inferior; petty; second-rate; bush league: a small-time political power (1910+ Show business)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with small-time

small time

A modest or minor level of achievement, as in Her success took her out of the small time to prime-time television. This expression was originally used in vaudeville for second-rate theaters and productions. [ Early 1900s ]
Also see: big time, def. 2.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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