small beer

See synonyms for small beer on
  1. weak beer.

  2. Chiefly British Slang. matters or persons of little or no importance.

Origin of small beer

First recorded in 1560–70 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use small beer in a sentence

  • All this is small beer compared with the supergrass that BCL Burton Copeland may turn out to be.

  • Like most of our public figures and celebrities, our “most wanted” criminals are small beer.

  • The sour Medoc was sparingly drunk, mixed with sugar and water; some drank home-brewed small beer, the majority only water.

    Skipper Worse | Alexander Lange Kielland
  • There was something superb in it, something heroically mad—not the sordid drunkenness of small beer.

    The Woman Gives | Owen Johnson
  • He seemed but half awake; and it was with drowsy voice that he called for a cup of cold small beer.

    Peveril of the Peak | Sir Walter Scott

British Dictionary definitions for small beer

small beer

  1. informal, mainly British people or things of no importance

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with small beer

small beer

Also, small potatoes. Of little importance, as in Don't listen to Henry; he's small beer, or It's silly to worry about that bill; it's small potatoes. The first term alludes to a beer of low alcoholic content (also called light beer today) and was used metaphorically by Shakespeare in several plays. The variant may have been invented by frontiersman Davy Crockett; it was first recorded in 1836. Also see small fry, def. 2.

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