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From be- +‎ little. Coined by Thomas Jefferson in 1782[1].


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /bɨˈlɪt.əl/
  • (file)
    Rhymes: -ɪtəl


belittle (third-person singular simple present belittles, present participle belittling, simple past and past participle belittled)

  1. (often derogatory, transitive) To knowingly say that something is smaller or less important than it actually is. [from 1782]
    Synonyms: understate, make light of, denigrate, degrade, deprecate, disparage
    Antonym: exaggerate
    • 2006, Mark Steyn, chapter 9, in America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, →ISBN, page 201:
      Under the rules as understood by the New York Times, the West is free to mock and belittle its Judeo-Christian inheritance, and, likewise, the Muslim world is free to mock and belittle the West's Judeo-Christian inheritance.
    Don't belittle your colleagues.

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  1. ^
    1802, Thomas Jefferson, “Productions, mineral, vegetable and animal”, in Notes on the State of Virginia, page 90:
    So far the Count de Buffon has carried this new theory of the tendency of nature to belittle her productions on this ſide of the Atlantic.