Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Small in size: a little dining room. See Synonyms at small.
  • adj. Short in extent or duration; brief: There is little time left.
  • adj. Small in quantity or degree: little money.
  • adj. Unimportant; trivial: a little matter.
  • adj. Narrow; petty: mean little comments; a little mind consumed with trivia.
  • adj. Without much power or influence; of minor status.
  • adj. Being at an early stage of growth; young: a little child.
  • adj. Younger or youngest. Used especially of a sibling: My little brother is leaving for college next week.
  • adv. Not much; scarcely: works long hours, sleeping little.
  • adv. Not in the least; not at all: They little expected such a generous gift.
  • n. A small quantity or amount: Give me a little.
  • n. Something much less than all: I know little of their history.
  • n. A short distance or time: a little down the road; waited a little.
  • idiom a little Somewhat; a bit: felt a little better.
  • idiom little by little By small degrees or increments; gradually.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Small in size.
  • adj. Insignificant, trivial.
  • adj. Very young.
  • adj. Younger.
  • adj. Used with the name of place, especially of a country, to denote a neighborhood whose residents or storekeepers are from that place.
  • adj. Small in amount or number, having few members.
  • adv. Not much.
  • Not much, only a little: only a small amount (of).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Small in size or extent; not big; diminutive; -- opposed to big or large
  • adj. Short in duration; brief.
  • adj. Small in quantity or amount; not much
  • adj. Small in dignity, power, or importance; not great; insignificant; contemptible.
  • adj. Small in force or efficiency; not strong; weak; slight; inconsiderable
  • adj. Small in extent of views or sympathies; narrow; shallow; contracted; mean; illiberal; ungenerous.
  • adv. In a small quantity or degree; not much; slightly; somewhat; -- often with a preceding it.
  • n. That which is little; a small quantity, amount, space, or the like.
  • n. A small degree or scale; miniature.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Not large or much.
  • Not large in number; having few constituent, members or parts: as, a little army or fleet; a little city.
  • Not much; of small amount, quantity, or degree; restricted; limited: as, a little food or drink; little joy or happiness; little influence.
  • Not of great extent or duration; not long; short in space or time; brief: as, a little way or distance; a little while.
  • Not great; small in consideration, dignity, consequence, etc.; petty; inconsiderable; insignificant: as, a little office; little affairs; a little accident.
  • Hence— Petty in character; mean; narrow; wanting breadth or largeness: as, a little soul or mind.
  • Synonyms Minute, tiny.
  • and Scanty, slender, moderate.
  • Insignificant, contemptible, weak. See littleness.
  • n. A small quantity, amount, space, or the like.
  • In a small quantity or degree; not much; slightly.
  • To become little or less.
  • To make less. Compare belittle.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adv. not much
  • adj. low in stature; not tall
  • adj. (of children and animals) young, immature
  • adj. small in a way that arouses feelings (of tenderness or its opposite depending on the context)
  • n. a small amount or duration
  • adj. limited or below average in number or quantity or magnitude or extent
  • adj. (informal) small and of little importance
  • adj. (quantifier used with mass nouns) small in quantity or degree; not much or almost none or (with `a') at least some
  • adj. lowercase
  • adj. (of a voice) faint

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English lȳtel.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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, German lütt and lützel, West Frisian lyts, Low German lütt, Old High German luzzil, Middle High German lützel, Old English lūtan; 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. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • I am the sister of him
    And he is my brother.
    He is too little for us
    To talk to each other.

    So every morning I show him
    My doll and my book;
    But every morning he still is
    Too little to look.

    - Dorothy Aldis, 'Little'.

    November 1, 2008

  • I believe "precious little" is a beautiful expression, as in "So much needed to be changed in academic life and society at large, and precious little of all that 60's rebelliousness made an impact". Gatochy

    October 19, 2008