Definition of little in US English:

little

adjective

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

determiner & pronoun

  • 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’
    • ‘We would say a little of what you fancy is fine, but you shouldn't over-indulge in anything.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘In the end, they adopted a little of both, which may have been their ultimate undoing.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Any oxtail had vanished and it stank of truffle oil; a little of this condiment goes a long way.’
    • ‘At one time most farms were mixed farms, which meant they kept a little of everything and often grew a variety of crops.’
    • ‘Sprinkle with a little of the leftover spring onions and serve immediately with extra cheese.’
    • ‘Warm a little of the oil by putting a small jar of it in a pan of warm water.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The smart traveller takes a little of everything because things can, and do, go wrong.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Tourists and locals alike last night flocked to the pub to see if they could capture a little of the magic.’
    • ‘Put them in shallow dish and pour a little of the lime juice over them.’
    • ‘I was going to tell you a little of what's been happening, but there are two things standing in my way.’
    • ‘I want to try to explain a little of what sociologists see as distinctive about the times we live in.’
    • ‘There are countries the world over crying out for a little of that prosperity.’
    • ‘Add a little of the cooking water if the pasta seems too dry, then serve.’
    • ‘He asked me, as someone who knows a little of the reality, if I could help to set the record straight.’
    • ‘Francis seemed to start quietly but became a little of a revelation as the show went on.’
    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’
    • ‘However, the use of a variety of instruments does little to emphasize the indivisibility of rights.’
    • ‘But he had little doubt about that side of the midfielder's game when he signed him in the summer.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘My point today is not whether you think I have done too little or too much.’
    • ‘As the air cleared they saw that apart from a small linen cupboard there was little actual damage to the building.’
    • ‘This means there will be very little on-street parking available in this area.’
    • ‘There has been little public discussion of this, and even less consultation.’
    • ‘There is little doubt that these cases in particular have led to the numerous threats to her life.’
    • ‘But there appears to be little hard evidence of pupils failing to turn up for the second paper.’
    • ‘There is little happy middle ground and the public is left not knowing whether to take it seriously or to ignore it all.’
    • ‘Were he at the centre of power today it would be little different, the tribunals notwithstanding.’
    • ‘Very little happened to it other than it took it slightly out of alignment.’
    • ‘He said the defendants had lied to police, lied to the court and demonstrated little genuine remorse.’
    • ‘There can be little doubt about that because it happens to be the law of nature.’
    • ‘Most of these children had no conception of art, and little previous experience of being creative.’
    • ‘Green says there has been little available in the way of arts programming for some years.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Yes, it is the silly season, both locally and nationally, with little news worth reporting.’
    hardly any, not much, slight, small, scant, limited, restricted, modest, little or no, minimal, negligible
    View synonyms

adverb

  • 1a littleTo a small extent.

    ‘he reminded me a little of my parents’
    ‘I was always a little afraid of her’
    • ‘This may raise the bar a little and hopefully more of the top players will participate.’
    • ‘Naturally we were all a little apprehensive as we touched the ice and slid along the wild runway.’
    • ‘His trees and waves were always a little solid, a little lumpy, and now the buildings are, too.’
    • ‘Predictions that he would drop like a stone were therefore a little premature.’
    • ‘The concept of an elementary particle becomes a little nebulous in such circumstances.’
    • ‘The day after the night when the clocks change is always a little strange, don't you find?’
    • ‘This was my only disappointment of the evening, being a little insipid for my taste.’
    • ‘As long as she had known him he had always been a little arrogant in his best of times.’
    • ‘Whether all this makes it superior or a little soulless is a matter of taste.’
    • ‘I must admit, I was still a little afraid of this world that was still new and foreign to me.’
    • ‘Now I accept my share of the blame, but to suggest it was uniquely down to me is a little fanciful.’
    • ‘The haddock was a bright white colour, but tasted a little tough, as if it had been overcooked a tad.’
    • ‘One Moroccan girl said that she was a little afraid, since the murderer was a Moroccan.’
    • ‘My sense of isolation has shifted slightly from being wholly pleasant to being a little edgy.’
    • ‘I feel a little guilty that my parents will have gone home less relaxed then when they arrived.’
    • ‘Deviating from the install instructions for a device is always a little dangerous.’
    • ‘Things were always a little shaky, but it has never been this bad before, they say.’
    • ‘It is always sensible to be a little sceptical about the politicians' preparedness.’
    • ‘In this country there has always been something a little amateurish about gambling.’
    • ‘I am a little afraid to ask what it is, but I do know I will not be eating much of this.’
    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.’
      • ‘We are little wiser about her wishes or perceptions, except that she would have liked to stay at The Arc.’
      • ‘They pointed out how little human nature has changed over the last thousand years.’
      • ‘That this in turn should lead to negative growth in the fourth quarter is now little in doubt.’
      • ‘It creates the illusion of intimacy when, in fact, the mental distances have changed little.’
      • ‘Oh wait that's little different to being ruled by a mobster, and brutally murdered and repressed.’
      hardly, barely, scarcely, not much, only slightly, slightly, only just
      rarely, seldom, infrequently, hardly ever, hardly, scarcely ever, scarcely, not much
      View synonyms

Phrases

  • 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.’
      • ‘Her face went slowly blank, little by little, and gradually her grip on his wrist lessened.’
      • ‘Of course, certain meetings are surely built up little by little with perseverance and considerable waiting.’
      • ‘But, little by little, I did things that made me stronger and stronger.’
      • ‘After that, I began to notice, little by little, this marvelous and mystical place where I have lived for years.’
      • ‘Squeeze it out, adding water little by little to prepare 1 cup of juice.’
      • ‘We are no safer and our freedoms are being taken 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.’
      • ‘Now, little by little, this has been repeated in the cinema.’
      gradually, slowly, by degrees, by stages, step by step, piecemeal, progressively, bit by bit, inch by inch, inchmeal
      View synonyms
  • little or nothing

    • Hardly anything.

      • ‘Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.’
      • ‘For 25 minutes we were treated to a close, tight encounter with little or nothing to choose between the sides.’
      • ‘The physical setting of the monument, moreover, suggests little or nothing of the sacred.’
      • ‘We know little or nothing about the various party policies.’
      • ‘Otherwise, it was stalemate with little or nothing between the sides.’
      • ‘Given that such treatment is typical, one can hardly blame players for saying little or nothing.’
      • ‘87 per cent felt they knew little or nothing about the proposed changes to council structures.’
      • ‘Any new programs that Congress might adopt would cost the average American little or nothing.’
      • ‘The majority of organisms on Earth learn little or nothing during their individual lifetimes.’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘On the other hand, when not involved in such discussions, they have, like the Baptists of the nineteenth century, made little of the rite.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I'd be mad to make little of a turnout of 10,000 people out of a population of 30,000.’
      • ‘They cheered when their team scored, cheered even louder when they won but never insulted or made little of their rivals.’
      • ‘He is courageous, well-motivated and makes little of the remaining symptoms from these dreadful injuries.’
      • ‘In the process of accomplishing economic development, we have been ignoring safety and making little of human lives on the grounds of saving money.’
      • ‘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
      View synonyms
  • no little

    • Considerable.

      ‘a factor of no little importance’
      • ‘It is of obvious importance and of no little difficulty.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Each is divinely packaged, having been designed at no little expense by our latently talented art department.’
      • ‘He will also be able to say - with no little credibility - that he had nothing to do with all the unpleasantness of last year.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Speaking ‘British’ requires no little effort for American teens.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And what we lose is of no little importance to our students and to feminism.’
      • ‘With deft strokes (and no little humour), she switches characters with alacrity.’
  • not a little

    • 1A great deal (of); much.

      ‘not a little consternation was caused’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This must rankle not a little with the start-ups who do make money from ‘social software’.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It tells us much about who we are and where we came from, and maybe not a little about where we're going.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As you may remember, this shocked me not a little.’
      • ‘The success of the programme owed not a little to the support from the wings.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Police training methods contribute not a little to the strengthening of sub-cultural traits.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She also sampled chicken livers that had been fried in wine and were very good if not a little too salty.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘It contributed not a little to the mystique which developed around him.’
      • ‘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.’
      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.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘I'm puzzled, a bit worried, and not a little peeved that this should be the case.’
        • ‘Still he was smiling, if not a little painfully now.’
  • 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.’
      • ‘The evidence is that there was quite a little diplomacy, aimed at coalition-forming for the largest purposes, throughout Asia at that time.’
      • ‘But there is too little here that is fresh and quite a little that sounds fanatical.’
      1. 1.1A considerable.
        ‘it turned out to be quite a little bonanza’
        • ‘Sounds like Helen might have had quite a little ego trip sitting in the back seat.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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).’
        • ‘‘This usually got quite a little laugh from them,’ she said.’
        • ‘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.’

Origin

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

Pronunciation

little

/ˈlidl//ˈlɪdl/