Definition of little in US English:


adjectiveless, least

  • 1Small in size, amount, or degree (often used to convey an appealing diminutiveness or express an affectionate or condescending attitude)

    ‘the plants will grow into little bushes’
    ‘a little puppy dog’
    ‘a boring little man’
    ‘he's a good little worker’
    • ‘I am not this little old biddy sitting at home with nothing better to do.’
    • ‘The little family groups which dig in for a spot of breeze could not have asked for anything better.’
    • ‘In this, she is like every poor little rich girl the world has ever known.’
    • ‘Possibly he has little complimentary sachets of shampoo and shower gel too.’
    • ‘In the shadow of that pyramid, conspiracy theories are little grassy knolls.’
    • ‘Special little token prizes will be presented to all boys and girls under three and four.’
    • ‘Many shops throughout Europe are selling cute little furry kitten figurines.’
    • ‘All he needed to do now was to point his telescope at the sun all day and look for a little black spot.’
    • ‘You're left with a neat little philosophical exercise in trying to assess the true source of its value.’
    • ‘They're like tiny little orange triangular men, all silently judging you as you drive past them.’
    • ‘In one shop, I bought a beautiful little Russian icon, painted on a wooden panel.’
    • ‘They are mean and petty and will fight each other to the death over one little tiny nut.’
    • ‘But try telling that to the little old lady who has waited in vain a couple of years for a vital eye operation.’
    • ‘There's always a little old man sat behind the counter, and no one ever seems to be in there.’
    • ‘A little old lady lined up behind me with a carton of rice milk and some organic ginger biscuits.’
    • ‘What you can do to avoid that is to eat a number of little small meals throughout the day.’
    • ‘Both men saw the rabbit race from the branches with his little puffy tail ablaze.’
    • ‘While a little black spot on the sun may seem like a simple act, the transit of Venus is not.’
    • ‘The little back area is for sitting down, chilling out, reading the papers.’
    • ‘When you put it in your tea you have little waxy bits floating at the top of the mug.’
    small, small-scale, compact
    short, small, slight, thin, petite, diminutive, tiny
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    1. 1.1 (of a person) young or younger.
      ‘my little brother’
      ‘when she was little she was always getting into scrapes’
      • ‘I had a long chat with my little brother this week about starting up my business.’
      • ‘My little sister and all my other little girly cousins went to the chemist to get their ears pierced.’
      • ‘When I was little, my mother had a cleaner come around who was also an Avon lady in her spare time.’
      • ‘As I saw him off at the airport, I was at once proud of him, sad and anxious - he was my little brother.’
      • ‘I stay with the same family when I am there, and I am Uncle Hamish to a lot of little Moroccan children.’
      • ‘It is exactly like the arguments your parents gave you when you were little.’
      • ‘She was humming a tune to a song that her mother use to sing to her when she was little.’
      • ‘Perhaps he was a little boy who died young, and this is how the author conceived his subsequent adventures.’
      • ‘He had played a big role in my life since I was little so he would always be a part of my life.’
      • ‘I had to sacrifice a lot of things in order to be home to take care of my little brother.’
      • ‘It's funny that my favorite thing when I was little is no longer my favorite thing at all.’
      • ‘One night, when I was little, I heard a report on the probability of nuclear attack.’
      • ‘One young girl said Gavin was a popular little boy who was always full of energy.’
      • ‘In her younger years, the little girl had an intense loyalty to her father.’
      • ‘One of my friends has a little brother who was a member of the Stampede Showband.’
      • ‘When we were little however we used to be made fun of all the time by a boy who moved away.’
      • ‘He had also tried to walk on water when he was little but the outcome was unsuccessful.’
      • ‘I was walking home with my little brother the other evening and we stumbled across this car.’
      • ‘I was too little to understand what had happened and too intimidated to argue with the teacher.’
      • ‘Finding someone close to the perfect person is never as easy as you are led to believe when you're little.’
      young, younger, junior, small, baby, infant, minor
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    2. 1.2 Denoting something, especially a place, that is named after a similar larger one.
      ‘New York's Little Italy’
      • ‘Crews from Farnworth have tackled 289 car fires of which 121 were in Little Hulton.’
      • ‘Trinidad, the land of my birth, should not be considered a Little India or a Little Africa.’
      • ‘In 1929 the group broke away and moved into the Little Germany Theatre - then called the Civic.’
      • ‘He was born in 1914 in Skidhouse Street in Little Horton and has lived in the city for the majority of his life.’
      • ‘They were moving into Little Palgrave Hall, so, sadly, we had to leave.’
      • ‘What is it about me that makes me look so strange when I walk the streets of any Little India wearing a sari?’
      • ‘They live in the suburbs of New Jersey, not Little Italy in New York.’
      • ‘Is it the end of the road for the Little Caesar of motor racing?’
      • ‘Albert Street will be closed from 8am to 6pm on Sunday from Little London to Union Row.’
      • ‘It'll also be named after London - Little London - and it'll also go out of business in a hurry.’
      • ‘Whether you live in the suburbs or in the vital enclaves of a Little India, you are a part of America and American life.’
    3. 1.3 Used in names of animals and plants that are smaller than related kinds, e.g. little grebe.
    4. 1.4 Of short distance or duration.
      ‘stay for a little while’
      ‘we climbed up a little way’
      • ‘The polar continental is usually a dry air mass, having little distance to travel over the sea.’
      • ‘The little pony watched him curiously from a little distance away, tied loosely to a tree.’
      • ‘She was a little distance off, digging into her bag.’
      • ‘With a little distance, what do people think about how the reaction in the US has played out?’
      • ‘Some important Taliban buildings are set a little distance away from the civilian population.’
      brief, short, short-lived
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    5. 1.5 Relatively unimportant or trivial (often used ironically)
      ‘we have a little problem’
      ‘I can't remember every little detail’
      • ‘I suppose the best encouragement I can offer is to pay attention to all the little details.’
      • ‘It looked like a normal house, but there were just so many little incidental details.’
      • ‘If they ask, you could always tell a little white lie and say you were doing, I dunno, tai chi or something.’
      • ‘Where are the natty details, the pleasing little touches that make you proud to be an owner?’
      • ‘Was it the big plot points that you wanted to reflect in your life or the mundane little details that you were going for?’
      • ‘But it will be nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the show without having to worry about every little detail.’
      • ‘As the game swung to the other end, the Hawks had a chance to demonstrate the little routine they do from most lineouts.’
      • ‘I like the little details, like the space to rest your left foot, and the movement of the seat.’
      minor, unimportant, insignificant, trivial, trifling, petty, paltry, inconsequential, negligible, inconsiderable, nugatory, of minor importance, of little account, of no account
      View synonyms

determiner & pronounless, least

  • 1a littleA small amount of.

    as determiner ‘we got a little help from my sister’
    as pronoun ‘you only see a little of what he can do’
    • ‘The smart traveller takes a little of everything because things can, and do, go wrong.’
    • ‘There are countries the world over crying out for a little of that prosperity.’
    • ‘I was going to tell you a little of what's been happening, but there are two things standing in my way.’
    • ‘To enhance enjoyment of the walk, what better than to know a little of the history of the bridges you will pass along the way?’
    • ‘He asked me, as someone who knows a little of the reality, if I could help to set the record straight.’
    • ‘We would say a little of what you fancy is fine, but you shouldn't over-indulge in anything.’
    • ‘Warm a little of the oil by putting a small jar of it in a pan of warm water.’
    • ‘Sprinkle with a little of the leftover spring onions and serve immediately with extra cheese.’
    • ‘In the end, they adopted a little of both, which may have been their ultimate undoing.’
    • ‘Add a little of the cooking water if the pasta seems too dry, then serve.’
    • ‘Since the old adage of a little of what you fancy doing you good is now applicable to chocolate, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.’
    • ‘Most of the stuff out there just doesn't pack the same punch that the old tunes do and we want to bring back a little of the old touch.’
    • ‘Maybe you want a little of this and a little of that - there's no harm in experimenting.’
    • ‘Tourists and locals alike last night flocked to the pub to see if they could capture a little of the magic.’
    • ‘I want to try to explain a little of what sociologists see as distinctive about the times we live in.’
    • ‘At one time most farms were mixed farms, which meant they kept a little of everything and often grew a variety of crops.’
    • ‘Any oxtail had vanished and it stank of truffle oil; a little of this condiment goes a long way.’
    • ‘Francis seemed to start quietly but became a little of a revelation as the show went on.’
    • ‘Put them in shallow dish and pour a little of the lime juice over them.’
    • ‘I can't not tell that story in a way that doesn't bring a little of that to the front of my own head again.’
    some, a small amount of, a bit of, a touch of, a soupçon of, a dash of, a taste of, a dab of, a spot of, a modicum of, a morsel of, a fragment of, a snippet of, a tinge of, a particle of, a jot of, a shade of, a suggestion of, a trace of, a hint of, a suspicion of
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1pronoun A short time or distance.
      ‘after a little, the rain stopped’
      a short time, a little while, a bit, an interval, a short spell, a short period
      View synonyms
  • 2Used to emphasize how small an amount is.

    as determiner ‘I have little doubt of their identity’
    ‘there was very little time to be lost’
    as pronoun ‘he ate and drank very little’
    ‘the ruble is worth so little these days’
    • ‘Most of these children had no conception of art, and little previous experience of being creative.’
    • ‘This means there will be very little on-street parking available in this area.’
    • ‘There is little happy middle ground and the public is left not knowing whether to take it seriously or to ignore it all.’
    • ‘Yes, it is the silly season, both locally and nationally, with little news worth reporting.’
    • ‘Green says there has been little available in the way of arts programming for some years.’
    • ‘She said existing day centres had little extra capacity for pensioners from the threatened clubs.’
    • ‘There appears to have been little adverse reaction from those at the party about Harry's costume.’
    • ‘There is little doubt that these cases in particular have led to the numerous threats to her life.’
    • ‘He said the defendants had lied to police, lied to the court and demonstrated little genuine remorse.’
    • ‘However, the use of a variety of instruments does little to emphasize the indivisibility of rights.’
    • ‘My point today is not whether you think I have done too little or too much.’
    • ‘There has been little public discussion of this, and even less consultation.’
    • ‘But he had little doubt about that side of the midfielder's game when he signed him in the summer.’
    • ‘Once sickness arrived they had little natural resistance and quickly died.’
    • ‘She has now played four tournaments and won three of them, but there is very little sentimental about her.’
    • ‘There can be little doubt about that because it happens to be the law of nature.’
    • ‘Very little happened to it other than it took it slightly out of alignment.’
    • ‘But there appears to be little hard evidence of pupils failing to turn up for the second paper.’
    • ‘Were he at the centre of power today it would be little different, the tribunals notwithstanding.’
    • ‘As the air cleared they saw that apart from a small linen cupboard there was little actual damage to the building.’
    hardly any, not much, slight, small, scant, limited, restricted, modest, little or no, minimal, negligible
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adverbless, least

  • 1a littleTo a small extent.

    ‘he reminded me a little of my parents’
    ‘I was always a little afraid of her’
    • ‘Naturally we were all a little apprehensive as we touched the ice and slid along the wild runway.’
    • ‘The haddock was a bright white colour, but tasted a little tough, as if it had been overcooked a tad.’
    • ‘I am a little afraid to ask what it is, but I do know I will not be eating much of this.’
    • ‘I must admit, I was still a little afraid of this world that was still new and foreign to me.’
    • ‘Things were always a little shaky, but it has never been this bad before, they say.’
    • ‘Whether all this makes it superior or a little soulless is a matter of taste.’
    • ‘My sense of isolation has shifted slightly from being wholly pleasant to being a little edgy.’
    • ‘It is always sensible to be a little sceptical about the politicians' preparedness.’
    • ‘The concept of an elementary particle becomes a little nebulous in such circumstances.’
    • ‘This was my only disappointment of the evening, being a little insipid for my taste.’
    • ‘This may raise the bar a little and hopefully more of the top players will participate.’
    • ‘I feel a little guilty that my parents will have gone home less relaxed then when they arrived.’
    • ‘The day after the night when the clocks change is always a little strange, don't you find?’
    • ‘Deviating from the install instructions for a device is always a little dangerous.’
    • ‘His trees and waves were always a little solid, a little lumpy, and now the buildings are, too.’
    • ‘As long as she had known him he had always been a little arrogant in his best of times.’
    • ‘One Moroccan girl said that she was a little afraid, since the murderer was a Moroccan.’
    • ‘Predictions that he would drop like a stone were therefore a little premature.’
    • ‘In this country there has always been something a little amateurish about gambling.’
    • ‘Now I accept my share of the blame, but to suggest it was uniquely down to me is a little fanciful.’
    slightly, faintly, remotely, vaguely
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  • 2(used for emphasis) only to a small extent; not much or often.

    ‘he was little known in this country’
    ‘he had slept little these past weeks’
    • ‘Whatever happened in the past, the biblical message is little known in those lands today.’
    • ‘Here, too, he enjoyed little financial success but the publication went on to greater things.’
    • ‘You need to get into the habit of drinking water little and often - before, during and after training.’
    1. 2.1 Hardly or not at all.
      ‘little did he know what wheels he was putting into motion’
      • ‘Yet this role is little noticed in the US and often incomprehensible to America's allies.’
      • ‘Oh wait that's little different to being ruled by a mobster, and brutally murdered and repressed.’
      • ‘We are little wiser about her wishes or perceptions, except that she would have liked to stay at The Arc.’
      • ‘It creates the illusion of intimacy when, in fact, the mental distances have changed little.’
      • ‘That this in turn should lead to negative growth in the fourth quarter is now little in doubt.’
      • ‘They pointed out how little human nature has changed over the last thousand years.’
      hardly, barely, scarcely, not much, only slightly, slightly, only just
      rarely, seldom, infrequently, hardly ever, hardly, scarcely ever, scarcely, not much
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  • in little

    • archaic On a small scale; in miniature.

      • ‘Her latest book is a nice example in little of her larger approach to writing.’
  • little by little

    • By degrees; gradually.

      ‘little by little the money dried up’
      • ‘Let her go to school and be with her at the beginning and then gradually fade away little by little.’
      • ‘And like that, little by little, all signs of the house's history will be chipped away.’
      • ‘It is a country to be discovered day by day, little by little.’
      • ‘We are no safer and our freedoms are being taken away little by little.’
      • ‘Her face went slowly blank, little by little, and gradually her grip on his wrist lessened.’
      • ‘Squeeze it out, adding water little by little to prepare 1 cup of juice.’
      • ‘But, little by little, I did things that made me stronger and stronger.’
      • ‘Now, little by little, this has been repeated in the cinema.’
      • ‘After that, I began to notice, little by little, this marvelous and mystical place where I have lived for years.’
      • ‘Of course, certain meetings are surely built up little by little with perseverance and considerable waiting.’
      gradually, slowly, by degrees, by stages, step by step, piecemeal, progressively, bit by bit, inch by inch, inchmeal
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  • little or nothing

    • Hardly anything.

      • ‘87 per cent felt they knew little or nothing about the proposed changes to council structures.’
      • ‘For 25 minutes we were treated to a close, tight encounter with little or nothing to choose between the sides.’
      • ‘We know little or nothing about the various party policies.’
      • ‘Otherwise, it was stalemate with little or nothing between the sides.’
      • ‘The majority of organisms on Earth learn little or nothing during their individual lifetimes.’
      • ‘Any new programs that Congress might adopt would cost the average American little or nothing.’
      • ‘Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.’
      • ‘The physical setting of the monument, moreover, suggests little or nothing of the sacred.’
      • ‘Given that such treatment is typical, one can hardly blame players for saying little or nothing.’
      • ‘The gifts will be received by children in countries where war, poverty, and natural disasters have left them with little or nothing.’
  • make little of

    • Treat as unimportant.

      ‘they made little of their royal connection’
      • ‘On the other hand, when not involved in such discussions, they have, like the Baptists of the nineteenth century, made little of the rite.’
      • ‘I'd be mad to make little of a turnout of 10,000 people out of a population of 30,000.’
      • ‘Having received salvation they made little of it.’
      • ‘However, Thompson makes little of this idea, which is sidelined by the innocence and playfulness of the production.’
      • ‘In the process of accomplishing economic development, we have been ignoring safety and making little of human lives on the grounds of saving money.’
      • ‘He is courageous, well-motivated and makes little of the remaining symptoms from these dreadful injuries.’
      • ‘They cheered when their team scored, cheered even louder when they won but never insulted or made little of their rivals.’
      • ‘At the present, the U.S. government, while clinging to a sizeable hoard buried in Fort Knox, seeks to disparage it and make little of it as an unimportant metal.’
      • ‘They were seven to one against coming into this game, but they made little of the odds as they hammered home two goals in a blistering three-minute spell at the start of the second half.’
      • ‘I repudiated him, made little of his death, shut my ears to his invitations, disregarded his warnings.’
      make light of, make little of, make nothing of, set little store by, set no store by, gloss over, de-emphasize, underemphasize, downplay, understate, underplay, minimize, shrug off
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  • no little

    • Considerable.

      ‘a factor of no little importance’
      • ‘And what we lose is of no little importance to our students and to feminism.’
      • ‘He will also be able to say - with no little credibility - that he had nothing to do with all the unpleasantness of last year.’
      • ‘Each is divinely packaged, having been designed at no little expense by our latently talented art department.’
      • ‘It is of obvious importance and of no little difficulty.’
      • ‘With deft strokes (and no little humour), she switches characters with alacrity.’
      • ‘But when delivered with sincerity, a real passion and no little skill, the whole package adds up to an artist who must not end up on the list of those who got ignored.’
      • ‘Speaking ‘British’ requires no little effort for American teens.’
      • ‘It was a game of no little quality given the sod more resembled the aftermath of a ploughing competition, and which took extreme effort to make progress upon.’
      • ‘This Laois team hurled with pride, passion, great commitment and no little skill and certainly did not deserve to be nine points adrift at the end.’
      • ‘You see, most metal songs at the time seemed to be full of macho bragging, but this was a brokenhearted song of love gone wrong, sung with wit and no little amount of gusto.’
  • not a little

    • 1A great deal (of); much.

      ‘not a little consternation was caused’
      • ‘Once you rent a site you have to adapt it to suit the kind of drama you're shooting and that involves a great deal of work and not a little cost.’
      • ‘It tells us much about who we are and where we came from, and maybe not a little about where we're going.’
      • ‘It is even possible that the characters of King Alcinous and Queen Arete owe not a little to Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his sister/wife.’
      • ‘The success of the programme owed not a little to the support from the wings.’
      • ‘This was not only beautiful, but thought-provoking, and did not a little to contribute to a somewhat excited discussion on the theme that evening after dinner.’
      • ‘Indeed, it is possible that the marked change in character of the reign following her death in 1290 owed not a little to Edward's sense of personal loss.’
      • ‘It contributed not a little to the mystique which developed around him.’
      • ‘She also sampled chicken livers that had been fried in wine and were very good if not a little too salty.’
      • ‘The Church turned its back on Galileo, and has suffered not a little for having done so; Galileo blamed only some wrong-headed individuals in the Church for that.’
      • ‘Police training methods contribute not a little to the strengthening of sub-cultural traits.’
      • ‘He designs a cover that looks not a little like other pulpy thrillers in his favourite corner of the bookshop, and convinces a Sydney bookstore to stock it.’
      • ‘As you may remember, this shocked me not a little.’
      • ‘Then the guitar solos come out like switchblades and it descends into some kind of running battle - exhilarating and not a little out of control.’
      • ‘It will take a great deal of effort, and not a little imagination, to sustain the peace process and make it yield positive results until a durable reconciliation is reached.’
      • ‘If truth be told, however, The Beatles' first appearance owed not a little of its brilliance to the Dark Ages that preceded it, certainly where native pop is concerned.’
      • ‘Put the bag somewhere safe, warn people away and call the authorities who will deal with the incident with little fuss and not a little gratitude.’
      • ‘This must rankle not a little with the start-ups who do make money from ‘social software’.’
      1. 1.1Very.
        ‘it was not a little puzzling’
        • ‘So it's strange, therefore, and not a little paranoid of the family to be squeamish about the book, because the only truly unflattering portrait painted here is that of its author.’
        • ‘Still he was smiling, if not a little painfully now.’
        • ‘I'm puzzled, a bit worried, and not a little peeved that this should be the case.’
        • ‘It would be unfeasible, I thought, and not a little greedy, to cover a gruelling election campaign, only to face another three-week marathon in Athens.’
        • ‘For a week prior to Easter Sunday, Seville's famed Semana Santa processions trail evocatively, and sometimes not a little eerily, through the streets.’
  • quite a little

    • 1A fairly large amount of.

      ‘some spoke quite a little English’
      • ‘P.S. I've done quite a little Christmas baking over the past few days and am hoping to do a post about them early next week.’
      • ‘But there is too little here that is fresh and quite a little that sounds fanatical.’
      • ‘The evidence is that there was quite a little diplomacy, aimed at coalition-forming for the largest purposes, throughout Asia at that time.’
      1. 1.1A considerable.
        ‘it turned out to be quite a little bonanza’
        • ‘We would eat crêpes every single night, to the sparkly-eyed delight of my sister and myself, and over time we had built quite a little itinerary of favorite crêperies to visit.’
        • ‘With deepest apologies, I think I will be taking quite a little while with updates at times, but then again, I might be able to pick up the pace (just for you guys).’
        • ‘I haven't seen him this good in quite a little while.’
        • ‘I have come to the conclusion that it is quite a little gem.’
        • ‘Sounds like Helen might have had quite a little ego trip sitting in the back seat.’
        • ‘‘This usually got quite a little laugh from them,’ she said.’


Old English lȳtel, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch luttel, German dialect lützel.