See also: Little and a little


 little on Wikipedia


From Middle English litel, from Old English lȳtel, 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, West Frisian lyts, Low German lütt, Old High German luzzil, Middle High German lützel, Old English lūtan (to bow, bend low); and perhaps to Old English lytig (deceitful, lot deceit), Gothic 𐌻𐌹𐌿𐍄𐍃 (liuts, deceitful), 𐌻𐌿𐍄𐌾𐌰𐌽 (lutjan, to deceive); compare also Icelandic lítill (little), 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.
  2. Insignificant, trivial.
    It's of little importance.
    1. (offensive) Used to belittle a person.
      Listen up, you little shit.
  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. Used with the name of place, especially of a country, 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 [1]:
      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, 2005 edition, →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.
  6. Small in amount or number, having few members.
    little money;  little herd
  7. Short in duration; brief.
    I feel better after my little sleep.
  8. Small in extent of views or sympathies; narrow; shallow; contracted; mean; illiberal; ungenerous.
    • Tennyson
      The long-necked geese of the world that are ever hissing dispraise, / Because their natures are little.
    • Nicholas Petsalis-Diomidis, The Unknown Callas: the Greek Years, 2001, pg 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, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary: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.
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, chapter I, in Nobody, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, published 1915, OCLC 40817384:
      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 752825175, page 035:
      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.
    • (deprecated use of |lang= parameter)
      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 little water left.
    We had very little to do.

Usage notes

  • Little is used with uncountable nouns, few with plural countable nouns.





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


little (plural littles)

  1. (BDSM, slang) The participant in ageplay who acts out the younger role.

Related terms