Definition of small in English:

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Pronunciation: /smɔːl/


1Of a size that is less than normal or usual: the room was small and quiet the small hill that sheltered the house
More example sentences
  • Its high performance in a small case size also means that the costs can be reduced by using fewer or smaller capacitors.
  • The precision of variance components is reduced when sample size is small.
  • Staff revealed that four ovens were situated on the ground floor, two electric and two gas, each the same size as a small car.
little, small-scale, compact, bijou;
tiny, miniature, mini, minute, microscopic, nanoscopic, minuscule;
toy, baby;
poky, cramped, boxy;
Scottish  wee
informal tiddly, teeny, weeny, teeny-weeny, teensy, teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy, itty-bitty, eensy, eensy-weensy, pocket-sized, half-pint, dinky, ickle, with no room to swing a cat
British informal titchy
North American informal little-bitty, vest-pocket
short, little, slight, slightly built, small-boned, petite, diminutive, elfin, tiny;
puny, undersized, stunted;
squat, stubby;
dwarf, bantam;
a slip of a …;
Scottish  wee
informal teeny, teeny-weeny, pint-sized
rare homuncular, Lilliputian
inadequate, meagre, insufficient, ungenerous, not enough
informal measly, stingy, mingy, pathetic
1.1Not great in amount, number, strength, or power: a rather small amount of money
More example sentences
  • Both areas were receiving small amounts of money over the years but little progress was being made.
  • Prior to the euro, some countries used notes for quite small amounts of money.
  • It is making me ridiculously happy, so it must have been worth the small amount of money I spent.
1.2Not fully grown or developed; young: as a small boy, he spent his days either reading or watching cricket
More example sentences
  • As a small boy Johnnie grew up to know and love those lovely hills that surrounded his home in Castlerock.
  • Neither did they know of the sacrifices made by small boy, grown beyond his years, so that he could keep them all safe.
  • The gland is very small in babies and grows at the time of puberty in response to testosterone secreted by the testicles.
1.3Used of the first letter of a word that has both a general and a specific use to show that in this case the general use is intended: they are diehard conservatives, with a small c
2Insignificant; unimportant: these are small points
More example sentences
  • The flowers seem small and insignificant during the day but at twilight they glow in the fading light and look beautiful.
  • He was small and insignificant but had a firearm trained on my navel.
  • The peaks of Glen Shiel loomed over and made me feel deliciously small and insignificant.
slight, minor, unimportant, trifling, trivial, insignificant, inconsequential, inappreciable, inconsiderable, negligible, nugatory, paltry, infinitesimal
informal minuscule, piffling, piddling
2.1(Of a business or its owner) operating on a modest scale: a small farmer
More example sentences
  • The study showed that small business owners and managers felt they came up with seven good ideas a month.
  • It is appealing for other small business owners to pay for booklets for their local school.
  • He said the experience gave him a new appreciation for small business owners.
small-scale, small-time;
modest, unpretentious, humble, lowly, simple
2.2 archaic Low or inferior in rank or position; socially undistinguished: at dinner, some of the smaller neighbours were invited

plural noun

1British informal Small items of clothing, especially underwear.
Example sentences
  • Do we know if secreted about his smalls he has a pair of boxer shorts in either the ancient or red tartan of his venerable clanspersons?
  • Most retail philistines won't quite see what all the fuss is about; smalls are smalls, they murmur, no matter where they are sold.
  • If I could now ask you to drop your trousers and smalls…
2 [treated as singular] West Indian A gratuity or small gift of money.
Example sentences
  • Go drop some comment in him box, and you can leave a smalls here as well.
  • Nevertheless, I managed to fill up the car out by the Harbour View station when I drove out there in the evening to look upon two skin rashes and earn a smalls.
  • An old man came begging at the gate, he offered to wash the cars for a smalls.


1Into small pieces: cut the okra up small
1.1In a small size: you shouldn’t write so small
More example sentences
  • It started out small and kept on expanding until it became one of the largest universities in the region.
  • The US may grumble that Europe talks big and acts small, but that is pretty much what Washington wants.



feel (or look) small

Feel (or look) contemptibly weak or insignificant: they had succeeded in making him feel small
More example sentences
  • Are there some people or situations that make you feel small or weak when you encounter them?
  • Freshmen stood timidly together in circles, looking small and insignificant.
  • He looked small and weak underneath the pale blue lab coat.
foolish, stupid, insignificant, unimportant;
embarrassed, humiliated, uncomfortable, mortified, chagrined, ashamed;
deflated, crushed

in a small way

On a small scale: in a small way his life has been improved
More example sentences
  • It all began in a small way when in 1939 the imminence of war led the Government to build up reserves of building materials in various parts of the country, for use following air raids.
  • Sweet, and in a small way, almost life-affirming.
  • But what if, in a small way, shopping does offer salvation?

it is (or what) a small world

Used to express surprise at meeting an acquaintance or discovering a personal connection in a distant place or an unexpected context: ‘Fancy him being your solicitor. It’s a small world.’
More example sentences
  • Meeting you set me to thinking what a small world it was which was topped off by discovering that Rodney's girlfriend's mum walks her dog in the same place that I do, and I know her, and her three legged beastie!
  • Her last address is in… well, what a small world, Salisbury, Massachusetts.
  • ‘Really,’ he said, ‘I'm from Glendale, Arizona--what a small world.’

no small ——

A good deal of ——: a matter of no small consequence
More example sentences
  • T.S. Eliot went to no small pains to energetically denounce the ‘epidemic’ that was ‘Bergsonism.’
  • Even minor things can bungle hard work, and English materials in international events are no small problems.
  • They are building homes again as you read this, and in no small numbers either.

small is beautiful

Used, especially in environmentalism, to express the belief that something small-scale is better than a large-scale equivalent.
The title of a book by E. F. Schumacher (1973)
Example sentences
  • With water technology, as with just about everything else, small is beautiful.
  • But is seems that once again, small is beautiful for a growing band of consumers, and Scottish family butchers are leading the counter-attack against what they claim is the shrink-wrapped uniformity of supermarkets.
  • We have sectors of society for whom the trend is moving away from buying from the big multi-nationals and for whom small is beautiful and local is beautiful.

the small of the back

The part of a person’s back where the spine curves in at the level of the waist.
Example sentences
  • The needle is passed into the space between two of the spinal bones in the small of the back (lumbar vertebrae).
  • When this occurs, it usually occurs on the anterior or posterior thigh or the small of the back.
  • If the chair back stops at the level of the small of the back, or anywhere below the shoulder blades, it is best given a curve.

small potatoes

Pronunciation: /ˌsmɔːl pəˈteɪtəʊz/
informal Something insignificant or unimportant: her business was small potatoes beside his empire
More example sentences
  • In a year when our public school board was usurped by a provincial appointee and the prospect of a 40-cent TTC fare hike was raised, these achievements may seem like small potatoes.
  • It's also small potatoes when compared to the estimated $464 million Ottawa spent on drug enforcement between 1999-2000.
  • I realize that this is small potatoes in the grand scheme of government encroachments into private enterprise, but it is a no-brainer for someone who even leans libertarian.

small profits and quick returns

The policy of a cheap shop which relies on low prices and a large turnover.
Example sentences
  • Local enterprises are urged to pursue small profits and quick returns to compete for a larger market share.
  • Following the dark hour of absolute panic, labor will be thankful for what it can get and will save slowly out of smaller wages, while capital will be content with small profits and quick returns.
  • Dorothy Davis characterizes some of the 19 th century sales innovations as ‘summed up in a new saying: small profits and quick returns.’

the small screen

Television as a medium: transplanting the timeless values of good literature to the small screen his own career as an actor began on the small screen
More example sentences
  • ‘It was frank, a new voice on tv,’ she says of the series that made her a small screen icon.
  • Rather annoyingly, both big and small screen forms tend to portray the conflict from a Royalist perspective.
  • New Zealand looks like Brazil, and the beasts are the best ever on a small screen.

small wonder

Not very surprising: it’s small wonder that her emotions had see-sawed


Old English smæl, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch smal and German schmal.

  • A word recorded since around ad 700. In Old English it could refer to something slender or narrow as well as something more generally of less than usual size. From the 16th century small beer was a term for weaker beer, the sort that people drank for breakfast when water supplies were unsafe. In Macbeth Iago dismisses women as fit only to ‘chronicle small beer’, and from this sort of use developed the sense of something insignificant. Small potatoes started out as a phrase in American English, usually in the fuller form small potatoes and few in the hill—an expression used by Davy Crockett in 1836. The phrase small is beautiful, suggesting that something small-scale is better than a large-scale equivalent, comes from the title of a book by E. F. Schumacher, published in 1973. It is perhaps best known as a slogan adopted by environmentalists.

Words that rhyme with small

all, appal (US appall), awl, Bacall, ball, bawl, befall, Bengal, brawl, call, caul, crawl, Donegal, drawl, drywall, enthral (US enthrall), fall, forestall, gall, Galle, Gaul, hall, haul, maul, miaul, miscall, Montreal, Naipaul, Nepal, orle, pall, Paul, pawl, Saul, schorl, scrawl, seawall, Senegal, shawl, sprawl, squall, stall, stonewall, tall, thrall, trawl, wall, waul, wherewithal, withal, yawl

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: small

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