small beer


weak beer.
Chiefly British Slang. matters or persons of little or no importance.

Nearby words

  1. smaik,
  2. small,
  3. small advertisement,
  4. small arm,
  5. small arms,
  6. small business administration,
  7. small calorie,
  8. small cane,
  9. small capital,
  10. small cardiac vein

Origin of small beer

First recorded in 1560–70 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for small beer

British Dictionary definitions for small beer

small beer


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

Word Origin and History for small beer

small beer


1560s, originally "weak beer;" used figuratively of small things or trifling matters. Small with the meaning "of low alcoholic content" is attested from mid-15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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.