little

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See also: Little and a little

English[edit]

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 little on Wikipedia

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English litel, from Old English 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, 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.

Pronunciation[edit]

Adjective[edit]

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

  1. Small in size.
    This is a little table.
  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.
  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 [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.
    • 2020, Richa Bhosale, "Croatian Hall in need of repairs to remain open," 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.
      • 2012, Comedian Steve Coogan on Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, "He is the embodiment of Fleet Street bullying, using his newspaper to peddle his Little-England, curtain-twitching Alan Partridgesque view of the world, which manages to combine sanctimonious, pompous moralising and prurient, voyeuristic, judgmental obsession".
  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)
  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.
    • 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, 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[edit]

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.

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Translations[edit]

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.

Adverb[edit]

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 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:
      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.

Antonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Determiner[edit]

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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Antonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Pronoun[edit]

little

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

Noun[edit]

little (plural littles)

  1. A small amount.
    Can I try a little of that sauce?
    Many littles make a mickle. (Scottish proverb)
    Little did he do to make me comfortable.
    If you want some cake, there's a little in the refrigerator
  2. (BDSM, slang) The participant in ageplay who acts out the younger role.
  3. (colloquial, college slang) A newly initiated member of a sorority.

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Anagrams[edit]