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

  • noun Offensive An extremely small person who is otherwise normally proportioned.
  • noun A small or miniature version of something.
  • noun A class of small objects, as a class of very small sailboats or racing cars.
  • adjective Miniature; diminutive.
  • adjective Belonging to a type or class much smaller than what is considered standard.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A little midge; hence, something very small for its kind; a very small dwarf; also, a sprightly small child.

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

  • noun (Zoöl.), Local, U. S. A minute bloodsucking fly.
  • noun A very diminutive person having normal proportions of the body parts; compare dwarf.

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

  • noun originally A little sandfly.
  • noun loosely Any small swarming insect similar to the mosquito; a midge
  • noun sometimes derogatory Any short person.
  • noun attributively That is a small version of something; miniature

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

  • adjective very small
  • noun a person who is markedly small


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

[ Diminutive of midge.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Diminutive of midge (from Old English mygg, mycg ("gnat"), from Proto-Germanic *mugjō; cognate with Dutch mug ("mosquito") & German Mücke ("midge, gnat")), using the suffix -et, originally (1865) for a "little sand fly", only around 1869 also a "very small person".



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  • use of this word to refer to someone of short stature is highly politically incorrect.

    October 29, 2007

  • Is the term at all correct? I understand dwarf is the more accepted term (if it isn't, somebody please let me know), but is this still technically incorrect to indicate someone with dwarfism?

    I'm just unsure if your comment means that people who are simply "short" should not be called this, or if people who are dwarfs should not be called this.

    October 29, 2007

  • I'm not clear on what the accepted alternative is. Isn't dwarf rather demeaning as well? I've also heard little people but I would consider that even worse. I'm not big into political correctness, but I've always felt awkward about using the words I've heard, because if I were short of stature any of them would offend me. And short of stature or just short are better, but inaccurate.

    October 29, 2007

  • Well, short is different from being a dwarf, so it would seem there need to be at least two words.

    And if dwarf is offensive, I apologize--I thought that was the accepted term.

    October 29, 2007

  • It may be. I've heard it plenty. But if I were one, I don't think I'd appreciate being called that very much.

    October 29, 2007

  • I think I'd rather be called a dwarf than a midget. Does anyone know what the accepted term is?



    October 29, 2007

  • Hmm, according to the internets there's an organization called LPA, or Little People of America. The medical condition they represent is formally known as dwarfism, but it seems they reject the word dwarf as a noun. They prefer "people with dwarfism," or the aforementioned "little people" as a more light-hearted reference. Their web site also mentions the "short-statured community," which is going on a list of mine posthaste.

    Additionally, there is a Restricted Growth Association in the U.K., which suggests different terminology is used across the pond.

    October 29, 2007

  • All right, then, people with dwarfism it is.

    I can understand "little people," but I also use that to talk to kids sometimes. For example, "be careful petting my dog. She's afraid of little people!" I don't mean people with dwarfism, I mean kids. But the kids always listen, and they get me. And when I used to say "kids," they didn't always listen, or sometimes they took offense--as if my dog has some kind of prejudice...

    Anyway. Thanks for looking it up, U! Signed, Very Very Lazy.

    October 30, 2007

  • Here's a curiosity I just found about the name of the LPA: "Originally to be called 'Midgets of America,' the folks who could afford to attend the early meetings were as likely to be non-midgets as midgets. So a compromise was made to call the group 'Midgets and Dwarfs of America' (notice who came first). It didn't take long, however, for the fledgling members to notice that the non-midgets (by P.T. Barnum's standards) were greatly out-numbering the midgets. So a second compromise was struck to call the group 'Little People of America.'" Quoted from this page.

    Note the distinction between dwarfs and midgets, which is meant to differentiate between little people who have childlike proportions, and those who have "normal" adult proportions. Medically speaking, the two have today come to be recognized as simply different variations of dwarfism.

    It seems the notorious showman P.T. Barnum is credited with popularizing the word midget, which applies a suffix to midge (a small fly). Its offensiveness is debatable, and there are plenty of people with dwarfism who even prefer to be identified by that word. It's also used to describe any small object or trinket. There are also those who find dwarf to be an empowering label rather than pejorative, and advocate for its use.

    I look it up because I'm bored, and mildly curious. ;-)

    October 30, 2007

  • *Non sequitur warning*

    I can't read this conversation without thinking about a jaw-dropping 1938 exploitation movie called Terror of Tiny Town starring Jed Buell's Midgets. It is the--not surprisingly--only all-midget Western musical. As astonishing at that seems, producer Buell actually had a follow up movie planned to be called Hang 'em Not So High. That title always makes me laugh, political correctness notwithstanding.

    I have a good friend who calls herself a "little person" but I have never worked up the courage to ask her what she thinks of this movie, if in fact she has even seen it.

    October 30, 2007