Definitions

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

  • adjective Small in size.
  • adjective Small in quantity or extent: synonym: small.
  • adjective Short in extent or duration; brief.
  • adjective Unimportant; trivial.
  • adjective Narrow; petty.
  • adjective Having scant power or influence; of minor status.
  • adjective Being at an early stage of growth; young.
  • adjective Younger or youngest. Used especially of a sibling.
  • adverb Not much; scarcely.
  • adverb Not in the least; not at all.
  • noun A small quantity or amount.
  • noun Something much less than all.
  • noun A short distance or time.
  • idiom (a little) Somewhat; a bit.
  • idiom (little by little) By small degrees or increments; gradually.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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.
  • noun 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adverb In a small quantity or degree; not much; slightly; somewhat; -- often with a preceding it.
  • adjective Small in size or extent; not big; diminutive; -- opposed to big or large
  • adjective Short in duration; brief.
  • adjective Small in quantity or amount; not much
  • adjective Small in dignity, power, or importance; not great; insignificant; contemptible.
  • adjective Small in force or efficiency; not strong; weak; slight; inconsiderable
  • adjective Small in extent of views or sympathies; narrow; shallow; contracted; mean; illiberal; ungenerous.
  • adjective (Zoöl.) See Chief hare.
  • adjective an Englishman opposed to territorial expansion of the British Empire. See Antiimperialism, above.
  • adjective the fourth and smallest finger of the hand.
  • adjective (Eng. Universities) a public examination about the middle of the course, which is less strict and important than the final one; -- called also smalls. Cf. Great go, under Great.
  • adjective (R. C. Ch.) the offices of prime, tierce, sext, and nones. Vespers and compline are sometimes included.
  • adjective (Zoöl.) the quahog, or round clam.
  • adjective young children.
  • noun That which is little; a small quantity, amount, space, or the like.
  • noun A small degree or scale; miniature.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Small in size.
  • adjective Insignificant, trivial.

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, from Old English lȳtel.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

Examples

Comments

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  • 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

  • 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