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This page has 22 definitions of little in English. Little is an adjective, an adverb, determiner, pronoun and noun. Examples of how to use little in a sentence are shown. Also define these 35 related words and terms: small, under-endowed, insignificant, trivial, offensive, belittle, shit, young, place, country, capital, neighborhood, resident, storekeeper, derogatory, few, capitalisation, scale, little science, Big Science, much, a little, singular, child, infant, big, university, slang, sorority, BDSM, ABDL, ageplay, role, regressed, and childlike.

See also: Little and a little



From Middle English litel, from Old English lyttel, lȳtel, from Proto-West Germanic *lūtil, from Proto-Germanic *lūtilaz (tending to stoop, crouched, little), from Proto-Indo-European *lewd- (to bend, bent, small), equivalent to lout +‎ -le. Cognate with Dutch luttel, regional German lütt and lützel, Saterland Frisian litje, West Frisian lyts, Low German lütt, lüttje. Related also to Old English lūtan (to bow, bend low); and perhaps to Old English lytiġ (deceitful), Gothic 𐌻𐌹𐌿𐍄𐍃 (liuts, deceitful), 𐌻𐌿𐍄𐌾𐌰𐌽 (lutjan, to deceive); compare also Icelandic lítill (little), Faroese lítil, Swedish liten, Danish liden, lille, Gothic 𐌻𐌴𐌹𐍄𐌹𐌻𐍃 (leitils), which appear to have a different root vowel. More at lout.



little (comparative less or lesser or littler, superlative least or littlest)

  1. Small in size.
    This is a little table.
    1. Small and underdeveloped, particularly (of a male) in the genitals.
      Synonyms: small, under-endowed
      • 2017, David Russell, Winston Patrick Mystery 2-Book Bundle[1], page 70:
        "You are a little, little man," she proclaimed, staring obviously below my waist as she pronounced the second "little." It was almost disappointing. I'd heard that one before, but it still left a new scar each time.
  2. Insignificant, trivial.
    • 2013 June 21, Chico Harlan, “Japan pockets the subsidy …”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 2, page 30:
      Across Japan, technology companies and private investors are racing to install devices that until recently they had little interest in: solar panels. Massive solar parks are popping up as part of a rapid build-up that one developer likened to an "explosion."
    It's of little importance.
    1. (offensive) Used to belittle a person.
      Listen up, you little shit.
    • Offensive definition
      Causing offense; arousing a visceral reaction of disgust, anger, hatred, sadness, or indignation. (1 of 3 offensive definitions)
    • Belittle definition
      To knowingly say that something is smaller or less important than it actually is, especially as a way of showing contempt or deprecation. (1 of 2 belittle definitions)
  3. Very young.
    Did he tell you any embarrassing stories about when she was little?
    That's the biggest little boy I've ever seen.
  4. (of a sibling) Younger.
    This is my little sister.
  5. (often capitalized) Used with the name of a place, especially of a country or its capital, to denote a neighborhood whose residents or storekeepers are from that place.
    • 1871 October 18, The One-eyed Philosopher [pseudonym], "Street Corners", in Judy: or the London serio-comic journal, volume 9, page 255 [2]:
      If you want to find Little France, take any turning on the north side of Leicester square, and wander in a zigzag fashion Oxford Streetwards. The Little is rather smokier and more squalid than the Great France upon the other side of the Manche.
    • 2004, Barry Miles, Zappa: A Biography, edition, published 2005, →ISBN, page 5:
      In the forties, hurdy-gurdy men could still be heard in all those East Coast cities with strong Italian neighbourhoods: New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston. A visit to Baltimore's Little Italy at that time was like a trip to Italy itself.
    • 2020, Richa Bhosale, “Croatian Hall in need of repairs to remain open”, in Timmins Daily Press:
      "The theatre was bought by the Croatian immigrants as so many immigrants came here in the ’30s and mostly for mining jobs, but in Schumacher itself it was called little Zagreb, and Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia. There were so many of them that they wanted to have their own little community, so they bought the theatre and they renovated it at that time, remodelled it and made it into a Croatian Hall," she explained.
    1. (derogatory) To imply that the inhabitants of the place have an insular attitude and are hostile to those they perceive as foreign.
  6. Having few members.
    little herd
  7. (of an industry or other field, or institution(s) therein, often capitalized) Operating on a small scale.
    Little Steel (smaller steel companies, as contrasted with Big Steel)
    Little Science (science performed by individuals or small teams, as contrasted with Big Science)
    • Scale definition
      (1 of 18 scale definitions)
  8. Short in duration; brief.
    I feel better after my little sleep.
  9. Small in extent of views or sympathies; narrow; shallow; contracted; mean; illiberal; ungenerous.
    • 1855, Alfred Tennyson, “Maud”, in Maud, and Other Poems, London: Edward Moxon, [], →OCLC, page 20:
      The long-necked geese of the world that are ever hissing dispraise, / Because their natures are little.
    • 2001, Nicholas Petsalis-Diomidis, The Unknown Callas: the Greek Years, page 547:
      Showing unmistakably what a little person he really was, in June 1949 he wrote his newly married daughter with nauseating disregard for the truth

Usage notes

Some authorities regard both littler and littlest as non-standard. The OED says of the word little: "the adjective has no recognized mode of comparison. The difficulty is commonly evaded by resort to a synonym (as smaller, smallest); some writers have ventured to employ the unrecognized forms littler, littlest, which are otherwise confined to dialect or imitations of childish or illiterate speech." The forms lesser and least are encountered in animal names such as lesser flamingo and least weasel.


Derived terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Dictionary:Entry layout § Translations.


little (comparative less or lesser, superlative least)

  1. Not much.
    This is a little known fact.  She spoke little and listened less.
    We slept very little last night.
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, chapter I, in Nobody, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, published 1915, →OCLC:
      Little disappointed, then, she turned attention to "Chat of the Social World," gossip which exercised potent fascination upon the girl's intelligence. She devoured with more avidity than she had her food those pretentiously phrased chronicles of the snobocracy […] distilling therefrom an acid envy that robbed her napoleon of all its savour.
  2. Not at all.
    I was speaking ill of Fred; little did I know that he was right behind me, listening in.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], →OCLC:
      But then I had the [massive] flintlock by me for protection. ¶ [] The linen-press and a chest on the top of it formed, however, a very good gun-carriage; and, thus mounted, aim could be taken out of the window [], and a 'bead' could be drawn upon Molly, the dairymaid, kissing the fogger behind the hedge, little dreaming that the deadly tube was levelled at them.
    • 2012 May 13, Alistair Magowan, “Sunderland 0-1 Man Utd”, in BBC Sport:
      But as United saw the game out, little did they know that, having looked likely to win their 13th Premier League title, it was City who turned the table to snatch glory from their arch-rivals' grasp.




little (comparative less, superlative least)

  1. Not much, only a little: only a small amount (of).
    There is (very) little water left.
    We had very little to do.

Usage notes

Little is used with uncountable nouns, few with plural countable nouns.
Little can be used with or without an article. With the indefinite article, the emphasis is that there is indeed some, albeit not much:
We have a little money, so we'll probably get by.
With no article or the definite article (or what), the emphasis is on the scarcity:
We have little money, and little hope of getting more.
The little (or What little) money we have is all going to pay for food and medication, so we can't save any.



See also



  1. Not much; not a large amount.
    Little is known about his early life.


little (countable and uncountable, plural littles)

  1. (chiefly uncountable or in the singular) A small amount.
    Can I try a little of that sauce?
    Little did he do to make me comfortable.
    If you want some cake, there's a little in the refrigerator
    Many littles make a mickle. (Scottish proverb)
  2. (countable, informal) A child; particularly an infant.
    • Infant definition
      A very young human being, from conception to somewhere between six months and two years of age after birth, needing almost constant care and attention. (1 of 3 infant definitions)
  3. An adult in a child-like role:
    Antonym: big
    1. (countable, university slang) A newly initiated member of a sorority, who is mentored by a big.
      • 2018, Kelly Ann Gonzales, Through an Opaque Window:
        He was there the night of Cristoph's party. All the littles were assigned to their bigs. Ian and Christoph had rushed the same fraternity. When they became upperclassmen, they both ended up on the board.
      • 2019 April 1, Audrey Steinkamp, “Sororities pair new members with "bigs"”, in Yale Daily News[3]:
        She added that the relationship between bigs and littles is "what each pair makes of it," and that a lot of the pairs often get dinner together and become close friends.
      • 2022 September 27, Shreya Varrier, “Gamma Rho Lambda provides LGBTQIA+ community in greek life”, in Iowa State Daily[4]:
        Some traditions of the chapter include lineages with bigs and littles, receiving of paddles from a big, and a national stroll, Wolsch-Gallia said.
    2. (countable, BDSM, ABDL) The participant in ageplay who acts out the younger role.
    3. (countable) One who has mentally age regressed to a childlike state.
      • 2019 August 30, Kimberly Holland, Healthline[5]:
        People with [dissociative identity] disorder frequently have a younger personality among their distinctive personalities. However, it’s believed that the "little" may not be a separate personality. Instead, it may be a regressed version of the original personality.
    • University definition
      Institution of higher education (typically accepting students from the age of about 17 or 18, depending on country, but in some exceptional cases able to take younger students) where subjects are studied and researched in depth and degrees are offered.
    • Abdl definition
      Sexual practices involving paraphilic infantilism, or sexual arousal that stems from pretending one is an infant through the use of diapers and other paraphernalia.
    • Ageplay definition
      A form of roleplay in which the player deliberately acts an age different from their own (and usually younger).

Derived terms

Related terms