View synonyms for small


[ smawl ]


, small·er, small·est.
  1. of limited size; of comparatively restricted dimensions; not big; little:

    a small box.

    Synonyms: tiny

    Antonyms: big, large

  2. slender, thin, or narrow:

    a small waist.

    Synonyms: slight

  3. not large as compared with others of the same kind:

    a small elephant.

  4. (of letters) lowercase ( def 1 ).
  5. not great in amount, degree, extent, duration, value, etc.:

    a small salary.

  6. not great numerically:

    a small army.

  7. of low numerical value; denoted by a low number.
  8. having but little land, capital, power, influence, etc., or carrying on business or some activity on a limited scale:

    a small enterprise.

  9. of minor importance, moment, weight, or consequence:

    a small problem.

    Synonyms: unimportant, insignificant, paltry, inconsequential, nugatory, secondary, minor, petty, trifling

  10. humble, modest, or unpretentious:

    small circumstances.

  11. characterized by or indicative of littleness of mind or character; mean-spirited; petty:

    a small, miserly man.

    Synonyms: narrow, selfish, mean, narrow-minded, small-minded

  12. of little strength or force:

    a small effort.

    Synonyms: feeble

  13. (of sound or the voice) gentle; with little volume.
  14. very young:

    when I was a small boy.

  15. diluted; weak.


, small·er, small·est.
  1. in a small manner:

    They talked big but lived small.

  2. into small pieces:

    Slice the cake small.

  3. in low tones; softly.


  1. something that is small:

    Do you prefer the small or the large?

  2. a small or narrow part, as of the back.
  3. those who are small:

    Democracy benefits the great and the small.

  4. smalls, small goods or products.
  5. smalls, British.
    1. household linen, as napkins, pillowcases, etc.
  6. smalls, British Informal. the responsions at Oxford University.
  7. smalls, Mining. coal, ore, gangue, etc., in fine particles.


/ smɔːl /


  1. comparatively little; limited in size, number, importance, etc
  2. of little importance or on a minor scale

    a small business

  3. lacking in moral or mental breadth or depth

    a small mind

  4. modest or humble

    small beginnings

  5. of low or inferior status, esp socially
  6. (of a child or animal) young; not mature
  7. unimportant, trivial

    a small matter

  8. not outstanding

    a small actor

  9. of, relating to, or designating the ordinary modern minuscule letter used in printing and cursive writing Compare capital 1 See also lower case
  10. lacking great strength or force

    a small effort

  11. in fine particles

    small gravel

  12. obsolete.
    (of beer, etc) of low alcoholic strength
“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


  1. into small pieces

    you have to cut it small

  2. in a small or soft manner
  3. feel small
    to be humiliated or inferior
“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


  1. the small
    an object, person, or group considered to be small

    do you want the small or the large?

  2. a small slender part, esp of the back
  3. informal.
    plural items of personal laundry, such as underwear
“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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Derived Forms

  • ˈsmallness, noun
  • ˈsmallish, adjective
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Other Words From

  • smallness noun
  • ultra·small adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of small1

First recorded before 900; Middle English smale, Old English smæl; cognate with Dutch smal, German schmal
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Word History and Origins

Origin of small1

Old English smæl; related to Old High German smal, Old Norse smali small cattle
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Idioms and Phrases

  1. feel small, to be ashamed or mortified:

    Her unselfishness made me feel small.

More idioms and phrases containing small

  • big fish in a small pond
  • (small) cog in the wheel
  • give thanks for small blessings
  • it's a small world
  • little (small) frog in a big pond
  • make a (small) fortune
  • no (small) wonder
  • still small voice
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Synonym Study

See little. Smaller, less indicate a diminution, or not so large a size or quantity in some respect. Smaller, as applied to concrete objects, is used with reference to size: smaller apples. Less is used of material in bulk, with reference to amount, and in cases where attributes such as value and degree are in question: A nickel is less than a dime (in value). A sergeant is less than a lieutenant (in rank). As an abstraction, amount may be either smaller or less, though smaller is usually used when the idea of size is suggested: a smaller opportunity. Less is used when the idea of quantity is present: less courage.
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Example Sentences

According to Grady of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, well-placed donations to smaller organizations can have exponential impacts.

Before I discard the plastic, I cut it up into tiny pieces so that small animals do not get caught in them and they don't try to eat them.

Over small plates, Renee talked about her love for food and Willie talked about his love for cooking.

So please think carefully before you demote small-talky situations to a priority below your laundry piles.

Castor addressed a small crowd from the stage before Coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Jason Licht offered enthusiastic — and colorful — comments of their own.

Something like fluoride, which is too small for normal filters, yanks away that feeling of agency.

And yes, someone has already called Spencer a “Small Fry,” har har.

It was seen by a small delegation of star-struck prelates and dignitaries who later described the film as “moving.”

The judges who handle arraignments at criminal court in all five boroughs have a small fraction of their usual caseloads.

Inside the guild, men in caps and long gowns sit in twos, weaving together in small rooms.

The Duchess had also a tent for their sick men; so that we had a small town of our own here, and every body employed.

Suddenly, however, he became aware of a small black spot far ahead in the very middle of the unencumbered track.

He is perplexed and hindered by the lack of soldiers, but is doing his best with his small forces.

A small book, bound in full purple calf, lay half hidden in a nest of fine tissue paper on the dressing-table.

Before the outlaw can comply with this small request the horn sounds again.


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More About Small

What is a basic definition of small?

Small is an adjective that describes something as little or not of large size. Small can also describe something as being low in number or amount. Small has many other senses as an adjective, adverb, and noun and is used in several idioms.

If something or someone is small, they are little or diminutive. They are physically short or take up a low amount of physical space. Small can also describe something as being less big than other similar things. For example, a pony is a small horse. The noun form of this sense of small is smallness.

  • Real-life examples: Chihuahuas are small dogs. Ants are small animals. A dime is a small coin.
  • Used in a sentence: The letters were too small to read. 

Small also describes something as being low in number.

  • Real-life examples: A group of 100 soldiers is a very small army. A town that only has 30 people living in it has a small population.
  • Used in a sentence: I started my business with a small team of trusted friends. 

Small can also describe something as not being of a large amount or great degree.

  • Used in a sentence: She won a few small bets before betting it all and winning the jackpot.

Where does small come from?

The first records of small come from before 900. It ultimately comes from the Old English smæl and is related to the Dutch smal and the German schmal.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to small?

  • smallness (noun)
  • ultrasmall (adjective)
  • smallish (adjective)

What are some synonyms for small?

What are some words that share a root or word element with small

What are some words that often get used in discussing small?

How is small used in real life?

Small is a very common word used to mean something is little, low in number, or low in amount.

Try using small!

Is small used correctly in the following sentence?

The box was too small to hold my TV, so I had to find a bigger box.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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