of modest or insignificant size, importance, or influence: a small-time politician.

Origin of small-time

First recorded in 1910–15
Related formssmall-tim·er, noun

small time

noun (in vaudeville)

a circuit of minor theaters giving three or more shows daily.

Origin of small time

An Americanism dating back to 1920–25 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for small-time

Contemporary Examples of small-time

Historical Examples of small-time

  • It's no job at all to run a bluff on a small-time crook like that.

    The Brand of Silence

    Harrington Strong

  • The old school spirit was okay for football games, and even for small-time wars, but he had never felt much of it.

    Way of a Rebel

    Walter M. Miller

  • You may have a year of doing three or four shows a day on "small-time," as it is called, which is splendid experience for you.

British Dictionary definitions for small-time



informal insignificant; minora small-time criminal
Derived Formssmall-timer, noun
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-time

1910, originally theater slang for lower-salaried circuits, or ones requiring more daily performances; from noun phrase (also 1910). Cf. big time.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with small-time

small time

A modest or minor level of achievement, as in Her success took her out of the small time to prime-time television. This expression was originally used in vaudeville for second-rate theaters and productions. [Early 1900s] Also see big time, def. 2.

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