verb (used with object), be·lit·tled, be·lit·tling.

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 for belittle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for belittle

Contemporary Examples of belittle

Historical Examples of belittle

  • Now, far be it from us to belittle the splendor of this scientific vision.

  • Rather it was the city person's point of view he was inclined to belittle.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • "It is the money-grabbers of the world who belittle empire," Duncan answered.

    The Avenger

    E. Phillips Oppenheim

  • Even since the war, the English have tried to belittle the Irish.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • Why, words would only belittle this part of our “performance.”

    Adventures and Recollections

    Bill o'th' Hoylus End

British Dictionary definitions for belittle


verb (tr)

to consider or speak of (something) as less valuable or important than it really is; disparage
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 belittle

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