adjective, small·er, small·est.

adverb, small·er, small·est.



    feel small, to be ashamed or mortified: Her unselfishness made me feel small.

Origin of small

before 900; Middle English smale (adj., noun, and adv.), Old English smæl; cognate with Dutch smal, German schmal
Related formssmall·ness, nounul·tra·small, adjective

Synonyms for small

1. tiny. See little. 2. slight. 1, 3, 5. 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. 9. trifling, petty, unimportant, minor, secondary, nugatory, inconsequential, paltry, insignificant. 11. small-minded, narrow-minded, mean, selfish, narrow. 12. feeble.

Antonyms for small

1. large, big. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for small

Contemporary Examples of small

Historical Examples of small

  • She's one of the build that aren't so big as they look, nor yet so small as they look.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • So small was it that to have gone a few feet to either side would have been to miss it.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Obulus, (plural Oboli)—A small coin, about the value of a penny.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • He caught but two fish, and they were so small that he decided not to offer them for sale.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Why, we wasted enough from breakfast to feed a small family.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

British Dictionary definitions for small



comparatively little; limited in size, number, importance, etc
of little importance or on a minor scalea small business
lacking in moral or mental breadth or deptha small mind
modest or humblesmall beginnings
of low or inferior status, esp socially
(of a child or animal) young; not mature
unimportant, triviala small matter
not outstandinga small actor
of, relating to, or designating the ordinary modern minuscule letter used in printing and cursive writingCompare capital 1 (def. 13) See also lower case
lacking great strength or forcea small effort
in fine particlessmall gravel
obsolete (of beer, etc) of low alcoholic strength


into small piecesyou have to cut it small
in a small or soft manner
feel small to be humiliated or inferior


the small an object, person, or group considered to be smalldo you want the small or the large?
a small slender part, esp of the back
(plural) informal, mainly British items of personal laundry, such as underwear
Derived Formssmallish, adjectivesmallness, noun

Word Origin for small

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

Old English smæl "thin, slender, narrow; fine," from Proto-Germanic *smal- "small animal; small" (cf. Old Saxon, Danish, Swedish, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German smal, Old Frisian smel, German schmal "narrow, slender," Gothic smalista "smallest," Old Norse smali "small cattle, sheep"), perhaps from a PIE root *(s)melo- "smaller animal" (cf. Greek melon, Old Irish mil "a small animal;" Old Church Slavonic malu "bad"). Original sense of "narrow" now almost obsolete, except in reference to waistline and intestines.

My sister ... is as white as a lilly, and as small as a wand. [Shakespeare, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," 1591]

Sense of "not large, of little size" developed in Old English. Of children, "young," from mid-13c. Meaning "inferior in degree or amount" is from late 13c. Meaning "trivial, unimportant" is from mid-14c. Sense of "having little property or trade" is from 1746. That of "characterized by littleness of mind or spirit, base, low, mean" is from 1824. As an adverb by late 14c.

Small fry, first recorded 1690s of little fish, 1885 of insignificant people. Small potatoes "no great matter" first attested 1924; small change "something of little value" is from 1902; small talk "chit-chat, trifling conversation" (1751) first recorded in Chesterfield's "Letters." Small world as a comment upon an unexpected meeting of acquaintances is recorded from 1895. Small-arms, indicating those capable of being carried in the hand (contrasted to ordnance) is recorded from 1710.


early 13c., "small person or animal," from small (adj.). From c.1300 as "persons of low rank" (opposed to great); late 15c. as "the small part" of something (e.g. small of the back, 1530s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with small


In addition to the idioms beginning with small

  • small beer
  • small cog in a large wheel
  • small frog in a big pond
  • small fry
  • small hours
  • small print
  • small talk
  • small time
  • small wonder

also see:

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