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[lit-l] /ˈlɪt l/
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,
  1. belittle:
    to make little of one's troubles.
  2. 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.
Origin of little
before 900; Middle English, Old English lȳtel (lȳt few, small + -el diminutive suffix), cognate with Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, Old Norse lītill
Related forms
[lit-l-ish, lit-lish] /ˈlɪt l ɪʃ, ˈlɪt lɪʃ/ (Show IPA),
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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for littler
Historical Examples
  • Some littler, and some just about like you, and some larger.

    The Girl Scouts at Home Katherine Keene Galt
  • Look at your fingers; they're thinner, littler than they ever were.

    The Madigans Miriam Michelson
  • When they are a little bigger they can remember that they were littler.

  • You hear the littler night prowlers, you glimpse the greater.

    The Forest Stewart Edward White
  • The government, on the other hand, must respect the rights of the littler chap and use this particular interval for transmitting.

    Walter and the Wireless Sara Ware Bassett
  • That slipper had fitted the slim foot of some littler maid than Christina!

    "Persons Unknown" Virginia Tracy
  • The littler it is, the less it expects and the more it explains.

    The Lost Art of Reading Gerald Stanley Lee
  • She drew a littler nearer him, and the face she lifted to his was very white.

    The Hermit of Far End Margaret Pedler
  • Does He help a kid knock hell out of another kid when that kid is beating a littler kid?

    Rose O'Paradise Grace Miller White
  • That's the gobbler, an' the littler ones with the gray feathers are the hens.

    The Forest Runners Joseph A. Altsheler
British Dictionary definitions for littler


(not standard) the comparative of little


(often preceded by a)
  1. a small quantity, extent, or duration of: the little hope there is left, very little milk
  2. (as pronoun): save a little for me
not much: little damage was done
make little of, See make of (sense 3)
not a little
  1. very
  2. a lot
quite a little, a considerable amount
think little of, to have a low opinion of
of small or less than average size
young: a little boy, our little ones
endearingly familiar; dear: my husband's little ways
contemptible, mean, or disagreeable: your filthy little mind
(of a region or district) resembling another country or town in miniature: little Venice
little game, a person's secret intention or business: so that's his little game!
no little, considerable
(usually preceded by a) in a small amount; to a small extent or degree; not a lot: to laugh a little
(used preceding a verb) not at all, or hardly: he little realized his fate
not much or often: we go there very little now
little by little, by small degrees
Word Origin
Old English lӯtel; related to lӯr few, Old High German luzzil
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for littler



Old English lytel "not large, not much; short in distance or time; unimportant," also used in late Old English as a noun, "small piece; a short time," from West Germanic *lutilla- (cf. Old Saxon luttil, Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, German lützel, Gothic leitils "little"), perhaps originally a diminutive of the root of Old English lyt "little, few," 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" (opposed to the great), 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). Little green men "space aliens" is from 1950. Little black dress is from 1939.

At the beginning of summer, smart women who stay in town like to wear sheer "little black dresses." Because most "little black dresses" look alike, retailers struggle each year to find something which will make them seem new. ["Life," June 13, 1939]
Little Orphan Annie originally was (as Little Orphant Annie) the character in James Whitcomb Riley's 1885 poem, originally titled "Elf Child." The U.S. newspaper comic strip created by Harold Gray (1894-1968) debuted in 1924 in the New York "Daily News."
LITTLE Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you

[Riley, "Elf Child"]


OE lytlian, from root of little (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with littler
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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