from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Being below average in size.
  • adjective Being below average in quantity or extent.
  • adjective Limited in importance or significance; trivial.
  • adjective Having limited position, influence, or status; minor.
  • adjective Unpretentious; modest.
  • adjective Not fully grown; very young.
  • adjective Narrow in outlook; petty.
  • adjective Having been belittled; humiliated.
  • adjective Diluted; weak. Used of alcoholic beverages.
  • adjective Lacking force or volume.
  • adjective Lowercase.
  • adverb In small pieces.
  • adverb Without loudness or forcefulness; softly.
  • adverb In a small manner.
  • noun A part that is smaller or narrower than the rest.
  • noun Small things considered as a group.
  • noun Chiefly British Small items of clothing.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To make little or less; lessen.
  • Slender; thin; narrow.
  • Little in size; not great or large; of less than average or ordinary dimensions; diminutive.
  • Little or inferior in degree, quantity, amount, duration, number, value, etc.; short (in time or extent); narrow, etc.
  • Low, as applied to station, social position, etc.
  • Being of little moment, weight, or importance; trivial; insignificant; petty; trifling: as, it is a small matter or thing; a small subject.
  • Of little genius, ability, or force of character; petty; insignificant.
  • Containing little of the principal quality, or little strength; weak: as, small beer.
  • Thin: applied to tones or to the voice.
  • Gentle; soft; faint; not loud.
  • Characterized by littleness of mind or character; evincing little worth; narrow-minded; sordid; selfish; ungenerous; mean; base; unworthy.
  • Having little property; carrying on a business on a small scale.
  • Meager in quantity, as a body of water: an anglers' epithet: as, the water is too small to use the fly.
  • Noting the condition of the cutting edge of a saw as condensed by hammering: same as tight.
  • Unostentatiously; without pretension.
  • Synonyms Smaller, Fewer (see less), tiny, puny, stunted, Lilliputian, minute.
  • Inconsiderable, unimportant, slender, scanty, moderate, paltry, slight, feeble.
  • Shallow. See pettiness.
  • Illiberal, stingy, scrimping.
  • noun A small thing or quantity; also, the small or slender part of a thing: as, the small of the leg or of the back; specifically, the smallest part of the trunk of a whale; the tapering part toward, near, or at the base of the flukes.
  • noun plural Same as small-clothes.
  • noun plural The “little go,” or previous examination: as, to be plucked for smalls.
  • noun plural In coal-mining, same as small coal (see above).
  • noun plural In metal-mining, ore mixed with gangue in particles of small size: a term used with various shades of meaning in certain districts of England.
  • In a small quantity or degree; little.
  • Low; in low tones; gently; timidly; also, in a shrill or high key.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adverb obsolete In or to small extent, quantity, or degree; little; slightly.
  • adverb Obs. or Humorous Not loudly; faintly; timidly.
  • transitive verb obsolete To make little or less.
  • adjective Having little size, compared with other things of the same kind; little in quantity or degree; diminutive; not large or extended in dimension; not great; not much; inconsiderable.
  • adjective Being of slight consequence; feeble in influence or importance; unimportant; trivial; insignificant.


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

[Middle English smal, from Old English smæl.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English smal, from Old English smæl ("small, narrow, slender"), from Proto-Germanic *smalaz (“small”), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)mal-, *(s)mel- (“small, mean, malicious”). Cognate with Scots smal; sma ("small"); West Frisian smel ("narrow"); Dutch smal ("narrow"); German schmal ("narrow, small"); Danish, Norwegian, Swedish små ("small"); Latin malus ("bad"); Russian малый (mályj, "small").


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  • In my household, we refer to the pocket-pets (rodents) this way. To differentiate from our "medium", which is the cat, and the "larges", who are us. A feral house-mouse is, then, similarly small, little or, better tiny; and insects are tiny or wee. If we had a ferret, I suspect it would be smallish or not-quite-medium. I likewise suspect a standard dog would be larger or largish.

    December 15, 2006

  • "But we should understand that for many ideas enabled by the Internet, small is the new big." -- January 3, 2008, 3:45 pm

    Twitter, Firefox and Big Ideas That Are Small Companies

    By Saul Hansell

    NY TIMES Tags: Business Models, firefox, microblogging, Mozilla, twitter

    February 6, 2008