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small beer

weak beer.
Chiefly British Slang. matters or persons of little or no importance.
Origin of small beer
1560-70 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for small-beer
Historical Examples
  • When Sir William drank the last of the winter's ale, I shoved aside my small-beer and sent for a mug.

    Cardigan Robert W. Chambers
  • M. M. Plentiful diet of flesh-meat and vegetables with small-beer.

    Zoonomia, Vol. II Erasmus Darwin
  • He asked especially for Sarah's small-beer, and drank two or three large glasses of it.

    Wenderholme Philip Gilbert Hamerton
  • His usual beverage was small-beer and cider, and Madeira wine.

  • I do not sing, either, except in a small-beer voice; and when I tried to sew I pricked my fingers with the needle.

    A Woman Named Smith Marie Conway Oemler
  • One morning a man stepped in and bought a bottle of small-beer.

  • Then I placed him in bed, bled him copiously, and forbade his taking anything stronger than small-beer.

    For Faith and Freedom Walter Besant
  • This production ‘was voted heretical,’ and burned by the hands of the small-beer drawer, while the author was expelled.

    Oxford Andrew Lang
  • Is there no small-beer there, that you go coughing and staining your bib over wine forbidden?

    The Maid-At-Arms Robert W. Chambers
  • Fitzherbert was one who took his small-beer, but it was so bad that the servants resolved not to drink it.

British Dictionary definitions for small-beer

small beer

(informal, mainly Brit) people or things of no importance
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 small-beer

small beer


1560s, originally "weak beer;" used figuratively of small things or trifling matters. Small with the meaning "of low alcoholic content" is attested from mid-15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for small-beer

smacky lips

Related Terms

play kissie

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with small-beer

small beer

Also, small potatoes . Of little importance, as in Don't listen to Henry; he's small beer , or It's silly to worry about that bill; it's small potatoes . The first term alludes to a beer of low alcoholic content (also called light beer today) and was used metaphorically by Shakespeare in several plays. The variant may have been invented by frontiersman Davy Crockett; it was first recorded in 1836. Also see small fry , def. 2.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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