adjective, a compar. of little with least as superl.

  1. smaller, as in size or importance; inferior: a lesser evil.

adverb, a compar. of little with least as superl.

  1. less.

adjective, lit·tler or less or less·er, lit·tlest or least.

  1. small in size; not big; not large; tiny: a little desk in the corner of the room.
  2. short in duration; not extensive; short; brief: a little while.
  3. small in number: a little group of scientists.
  4. small in amount or degree; not much: little hope.
  5. of a certain amount; appreciable (usually preceded by a): We’re having a little difficulty.
  6. being such on a small scale: little farmers.
  7. younger or youngest: He’s my little brother.
  8. not strong, forceful, or loud; weak: a little voice.
  9. small in consideration, importance, position, affluence, etc.: little discomforts; tax reductions to help the little fellow.
  10. mean, narrow, or illiberal: a little mind.
  11. endearingly small or considered as such: Bless your little heart!
  12. amusingly small or so considered: a funny little way of laughing.
  13. contemptibly small, petty, mean, etc., or so considered: filthy little political tricks.

adverb, less, least.

  1. not at all (used before a verb): He little knows what awaits him.
  2. in only a small amount or degree; not much; slightly: a little-known work of art; little better than a previous effort.
  3. seldom; rarely; infrequently: We see each other very little.


  1. a small amount, quantity, or degree: They did little to make him comfortable. If you want some ice cream, there’s a little in the refrigerator.
  2. a short distance: It’s down the road a little.
  3. a short time: Stay here for a little.


  1. in little, on a small scale; in miniature: a replica in little of Independence Hall.
  2. little by little, by small degrees; gradually: The water level rose little by little.
  3. make little of,
    1. belittle: to make little of one’s troubles.
    2. to understand or interpret only slightly: Scholars made little of the newly discovered text.
  4. not a little, to a great extent; very much; considerably: It tired me not a little to stand for three hours.
  5. think little of, to treat casually; regard as trivial: They think little of driving 50 miles to see a movie.


  1. not as great in quantity, size, or worth


  1. (often preceded by a)
    1. a small quantity, extent, or duration ofthe little hope there is left; very little milk
    2. (as pronoun)save a little for me
  2. not muchlittle damage was done
  3. make little of See make of (def. 3)
  4. not a little
    1. very
    2. a lot
  5. quite a little a considerable amount
  6. think little of to have a low opinion of


  1. of small or less than average size
  2. younga little boy; our little ones
  3. endearingly familiar; dearmy husband’s little ways
  4. contemptible, mean, or disagreeableyour filthy little mind
  5. (of a region or district) resembling another country or town in miniaturelittle Venice
  6. little game a person’s secret intention or businessso that’s his little game!
  7. no little considerable


  1. (usually preceded by a) in a small amount; to a small extent or degree; not a lotto laugh a little
  2. (used preceding a verb) not at all, or hardlyhe little realized his fate
  3. not much or oftenwe go there very little now
  4. little by little by small degrees

adj.early 13c., a double comparative, from less + -er (2). Johnson calls it “a barbarous corruption of less, formed by the vulgar from the habit of terminating comparatives in -er.” As an adverb from 1590s; now generally poetic or obsolete except in expression lesser-known (1813). adj.Old English lytel “not large, not much; short in distance or time; unimportant,” also used in late Old English as a noun, “small piece; a short time,” from West Germanic *lutilla- (cf. Old Saxon luttil, Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, German lützel, Gothic leitils “little”), perhaps originally a diminutive of the root of Old English lyt “little, few,” from PIE *leud- “small.” “Often synonymous with small, but capable of emotional implications which small is not” [OED]. Phrase the little woman “wife” attested from 1795. Little people “the faeries” is from 1726; as “children,” it is attested from 1752; as “ordinary people” (opposed to the great), it is attested from 1827. Little Neck clams (1884) are so called for Little Neck, Long Island, a “neck” of land on the island’s North Shore. Little by little is from late 15c. (litylle be litille). Little green men “space aliens” is from 1950. Little black dress is from 1939. At the beginning of summer, smart women who stay in town like to wear sheer “little black dresses.” Because most “little black dresses” look alike, retailers struggle each year to find something which will make them seem new. [“Life,” June 13, 1939] Little Orphan Annie originally was (as Little Orphant Annie) the character in James Whitcomb Riley’s 1885 poem, originally titled “Elf Child.” The U.S. newspaper comic strip created by Harold Gray (1894-1968) debuted in 1924 in the New York “Daily News.” LITTLE Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest funA-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits youEf youDon’tWatchOut![Riley, “Elf Child”] v.OE lytlian, from root of little (adj.). In addition to the idioms beginning with little

  • little bird told one, a
  • little by little
  • little frog in a big pond
  • little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a
  • little pitchers have big ears
  • also see:

  • a little
  • every little bit helps
  • in one’s own (little) world
  • make little of
  • precious few (little)
  • think little of
  • to little purpose
  • too little, too late
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