1175–1225; Middle English lasser, lesser. See less, -er4

lesser, lessor.
Dictionary.com Unabridged


adjective, littler or less or lesser, littlest or least.
small in size; not big; not large; tiny: a little desk in the corner of the room.
short in duration; not extensive; short; brief: a little while.
small in number: a little group of scientists.
small in amount or degree; not much: little hope.
of a certain amount; appreciable (usually preceded by a ): We're having a little difficulty.
being such on a small scale: little farmers.
younger or youngest: He's my little brother.
not strong, forceful, or loud; weak: a little voice.
small in consideration, importance, position, affluence, etc.: little discomforts; tax reductions to help the little fellow.
mean, narrow, or illiberal: a little mind.
endearingly small or considered as such: Bless your little heart!
amusingly small or so considered: a funny little way of laughing.
contemptibly small, petty, mean, etc., or so considered: filthy little political tricks.
adverb, less, least.
not at all (used before a verb): He little knows what awaits him.
in only a small amount or degree; not much; slightly: a little-known work of art; little better than a previous effort.
seldom; rarely; infrequently: We see each other very little.
a small amount, quantity, or degree: They did little to make him comfortable. If you want some ice cream, there's a little in the refrigerator.
a short distance: It's down the road a little.
a short time: Stay here for a little.
in little, on a small scale; in miniature: a replica in little of Independence Hall.
little by little, by small degrees; gradually: The water level rose little by little.
make little of,
belittle: to make little of one's troubles.
to understand or interpret only slightly: Scholars made little of the newly discovered text.
not a little, to a great extent; very much; considerably: It tired me not a little to stand for three hours.
think little of, to treat casually; regard as trivial: They think little of driving 50 miles to see a movie.

before 900; Middle English, Old English lȳtel (lȳt few, small + -el diminutive suffix), cognate with Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, Old Norse lītill

littlish [lit-l-ish, lit-lish] , adjective
littleness, noun

1–4. tiny, teeny, wee. Little, diminutive, minute, small refer to that which is not large or significant. Little (the opposite of big ) is very general, covering size, extent, number, quantity, amount, duration, or degree: a little boy; a little time. Small (the opposite of large and of great ) can many times be used interchangeably with little but is especially applied to what is limited or below the average in size: small oranges. Diminutive denotes (usually physical) size that is much less than the average or ordinary; it may suggest delicacy: the baby's diminutive fingers; diminutive in size but autocratic in manner. Minute suggests that which is so tiny it is difficult to discern, or that which implies attentiveness to the smallest details: a minute quantity; a minute exam.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To lesser
World English Dictionary
lesser (ˈlɛsə)
not as great in quantity, size, or worth

little (ˈlɪtəl)
1.  (often preceded by a)
 a.  a small quantity, extent, or duration of: the little hope there is left; very little milk
 b.  (as pronoun): save a little for me
2.  not much: little damage was done
3.  make little of See make of
4.  not a little
 a.  very
 b.  a lot
5.  quite a little a considerable amount
6.  think little of to have a low opinion of
7.  of small or less than average size
8.  young: a little boy; our little ones
9.  endearingly familiar; dear: my husband's little ways
10.  contemptible, mean, or disagreeable: your filthy little mind
11.  (of a region or district) resembling another country or town in miniature: little Venice
12.  little game a person's secret intention or business: so that's his little game!
13.  no little considerable
14.  (usually preceded by a) in a small amount; to a small extent or degree; not a lot: to laugh a little
15.  (used preceding a verb) not at all, or hardly: he little realized his fate
16.  not much or often: we go there very little now
17.  little by little by small degrees
[Old English lӯtel; related to lӯr few, Old High German luzzil]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

O.E. lytel (related to lyt "little, few," from P.Gmc. *luti), from W.Gmc. *lutila- (cf. Du. luttel, O.H.G. luzzil, Ger. lützel, Goth. leitils), from PIE *leud- "small." "Often synonymous with small, but capable of emotional implications which small is not" [OED]. Phrase the little woman "wife" attested
from 1795. Little people "the faeries" is from 1726; as "children," it is attested from 1752; as "ordinary people" it is attested from 1827. Little Neck clams (1884) are so called for Little Neck, Long Island, a "neck" of land on the island's North Shore. Little by little is from late 15c. (litylle be litille).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Example sentences
But if you take steps to make your house resistant to lesser fires, it may
Researchers have learned how to manipulate genes in plants and animals, and to
  a much lesser extent, in humans.
Surrounded by lesser figures, the striking specter nearly eight feet tall
  shimmers on the canyon wall under the relentless sun.
The lesser poems, if only because of their doubtfulness, may be dealt with more
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature