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 belittlement

Contemporary Examples of belittlement

  • And not only that, but (and I say this in solidarity, not belittlement) the African humidity had wreaked havoc on her hair.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why Hillary Lashed Out

    Tina Brown

    August 12, 2009

Historical Examples of belittlement

  • Swan, then, had availed himself of Lone's belittlement of him and was living down to it.

    The Quirt

    B.M. Bower

  • To hold otherwise were a blasphemy and a belittlement of God.

  • He had an uncomfortable sense of belittlement, of having played a small part in a not altogether worthy game.

    The Missioner

    E. Phillips Oppenheim

  • Yet how often one hears careless remarks of censure or—worse—of belittlement.

    The Sword of Deborah

    F. Tennyson Jesse

  • It was a mockery of their bravado, a belittlement of their bluff and swagger in the brief day of their oppression.

    Trail's End

    George W. Ogden

British Dictionary definitions for belittlement


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 belittlement



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