Definition of small in English:



  • 1Of a size that is less than normal or usual.

    ‘the room was small and quiet’
    ‘the small hill that sheltered the house’
    • ‘What you're feeling is the size of a small cushion, curving upwards under your lungs.’
    • ‘Any left over pastry was made into very small balls, the size of a walnut and dropped into the simmering water.’
    • ‘On one wall is a typical American fridge, the size of a small office block.’
    • ‘Other parents said the small class sizes helped their children with their academic achievements.’
    • ‘My back was scratched up from the ground and I had a tiny bruise in the corner of my eye, about the size of a small pea.’
    • ‘They are small mines, the size of tennis balls, made of plastic so you can't detect them.’
    • ‘The key device, which is about the size of a small box of wooden matches, slides into a slot in the dashboard.’
    • ‘We watched a chunk of ice crash into the sea fairly close to us, which was the size of a small home.’
    • ‘In Baywatch, the crews inhabit beach towers the size of a small house.’
    • ‘In fact the engine is the size of a small piano, makes considerably more noise, and pumps out 400 bhp.’
    • ‘I have slept little in cramped aeroplane seats and gloriously on motel beds the size of a small European farm.’
    • ‘But during an operation the vet found a ball bearing in the eye socket, the size of a small marble.’
    • ‘Each of the rooms is the size of a small apartment with a big bathroom, including a bathtub and hot water.’
    • ‘Five days in, his feet had turned purple with pus-filled blisters the size of small plums.’
    • ‘They are of different sizes, most of them about the size of a small lemon, but round in shape.’
    • ‘Its high performance in a small case size also means that the costs can be reduced by using fewer or smaller capacitors.’
    • ‘The precision of variance components is reduced when sample size is small.’
    • ‘In the middle of the white wormy thing, which fills the entire shell, is a green blob about the size of a small sprout.’
    • ‘The male moorhen about the same size as a small chicken was close to death when walkers spotted him bobbing in the River Ray.’
    • ‘Staff revealed that four ovens were situated on the ground floor, two electric and two gas, each the same size as a small car.’
    1. 1.1 Not great in amount, number, strength, or power.
      ‘a small amount of money’
      • ‘Districts should receive a small amount of money for each child who participates.’
      • ‘Also take a small amount of paper money as well, for taxis from the airport and so forth.’
      • ‘Both areas were receiving small amounts of money over the years but little progress was being made.’
      • ‘The message I want to get across is that what seems like a small amount of money over here can make a huge difference over there.’
      • ‘Prior to the euro, some countries used notes for quite small amounts of money.’
      • ‘I was provided with a small amount of money and within a year three drafts had been written.’
      • ‘They have said that families and other people can invest a small amount of money and get a huge return.’
      • ‘They are usually played for a small amount of money, and there is no process of betting to raise the stake.’
      • ‘The good news is that books can be bought for relatively small amounts of money.’
      • ‘I was not referring to that case, which involves a relatively small amount of money.’
      • ‘To keep it in good shape visitors to it are requested to pay a small amount of money to have a look inside.’
      • ‘If the insulation is burnt off the copper wiring, it can be sold for a small amount of money.’
      • ‘When you are dealing with a small amount of money versus the value of the property I am saying that it does not have an impact.’
      • ‘It is making me ridiculously happy, so it must have been worth the small amount of money I spent.’
      • ‘I was cut off from making the small amount of money that had really made the difference in my family's life.’
      • ‘In fact, it would put only a small amount of money into the hands of those who really need it.’
      • ‘While they were out on one particular date he forced entry and stole a small amount of money.’
      • ‘He spun the usual hard luck story that his family were hungry so I agreed to advance him a small amount of money.’
      • ‘For most people, it makes sense to invest small amounts of money on a regular basis, say, monthly.’
      • ‘He has been included as a party only because there was a small amount of money involved from his point of view.’
    2. 1.2 Not fully grown or developed; young.
      ‘as a small boy, he spent his days either reading or watching TV’
      • ‘The gland is very small in babies and grows at the time of puberty in response to testosterone secreted by the testicles.’
      • ‘I like seeing all the small children and they grow up and go to big school then another lot comes along.’
      • ‘They are often young mothers with small children, mothers who have no patience and who are quick with their hands.’
      • ‘A small baobab tree is growing out of the filth in the middle of the concrete-lined ditch.’
      • ‘As a small boy, he appeared as the youngest brother in the musical Peter Pan.’
      • ‘The embryos formed young plants with small true leaf-like leaves and roots.’
      • ‘Two other friends, a young couple with a small daughter, lived in the top floor flat.’
      • ‘My next door neighbour at the time was a lady called Marlene Crane, a young mum with two small children.’
      • ‘As a small boy Johnnie grew up to know and love those lovely hills that surrounded his home in Castlerock.’
      • ‘Neither did they know of the sacrifices made by small boy, grown beyond his years, so that he could keep them all safe.’
      • ‘They sat there, like a young mother and her small child, happy and content just to be together.’
      • ‘She pointed over to a gaggle of small boys, the eldest about seven, the youngest not even a year old.’
      • ‘I had to share a plate with a young mother who had a small boy, with dirty fingers poking into the food.’
      • ‘This will leave a very young woman and a small baby in very difficult social circumstances for a number of years.’
      • ‘Upon entering, he found dozens of small children and young women in a large, dark room.’
      • ‘From the mustard seeds thrown along the path by Vidyapati, small plants had grown.’
      • ‘All the heart disease sufferers had been born small and didn't grow well in infancy.’
      • ‘Another example might be the recent kidnapping and murder of two small girls in a village in England.’
      • ‘Two minutes later I'm looking at her womb and the small shape growing within it.’
      • ‘I lost my original plant, but I have a small plant grown from the original seed and I'm starting again.’
    3. 1.3 Used as the first letter of a word that has both a general and a specific use to show that in this case the general use is intended.
      ‘I meant “catholic” with a small c’
    4. 1.4 Insignificant; unimportant.
      ‘these are small points’
      • ‘Any news, no matter how small or insignificant, could take our minds away for just a moment.’
      • ‘The only small and minor complaint I have is the gravity of the situation to which the response given is.’
      • ‘As little Josie walked down the street, she began to feel quite small and insignificant.’
      • ‘The law is not mindful of small things or trivial things.’
      • ‘No fact is to small to overlook, no nugget of information too insignificant to discard.’
      • ‘I shudder to think of the way my small, insignificant encounter would be treated today.’
      • ‘In universal terms it is a small, insignificant star, fairly average in the great scheme of things.’
      • ‘There was even a lineup at the counter for the small, trivial things like coffee.’
      • ‘Since then he has clocked up a number of small parts in minor television dramas and films.’
      • ‘The flowers seem small and insignificant during the day but at twilight they glow in the fading light and look beautiful.’
      • ‘Conversely, something that initially seems a small and minor incident you might want to ratchet up the scale.’
      • ‘He was small and insignificant but had a firearm trained on my navel.’
      • ‘He makes his presence small, flattens his childish ego into something still and insignificant.’
      • ‘The peaks of Glen Shiel loomed over and made me feel deliciously small and insignificant.’
      • ‘It's a small problem affecting a trivial number of people who effectively choose to be affected.’
      • ‘We're a small country, a long way away, with a minor role to play on the world stage.’
      • ‘Now, it might seem a small argument over a minor, obscure piece of parliamentary procedure.’
      • ‘But these small inconsistencies in the plot do not take much away from what is an excellent film.’
      • ‘All in all he harboured only minor concerns, and these occupied only a small part of him as a whole.’
      • ‘One small planning decision, one minor infringement of a long-forgotten legacy.’
    5. 1.5 (of a voice) lacking strength and confidence.
      ‘“I'm scared,” she said in a small voice’
      • ‘My voice was small, but everyone turned round and she had no choice but to acknowledge me.’
      • ‘Rosie was speaking in a small voice, turning back to the floor as they made their way out the school building.’
      • ‘It is at this point, though, that a small voice breaks in to ask, cui bono?’
      • ‘She came back towards us and asked in a small voice if she could have our autographs.’
      • ‘Her trembling voice was small at first, but as she went on it grew in strength and power.’
      • ‘He finished this speech in a small tone of voice that instantly mellowed my anger.’
    6. 1.6attributive Little; hardly any.
      ‘the captain had been paying small attention’
    7. 1.7attributive (of a business or its owner) operating on a modest scale.
      ‘a small farmer’
      • ‘That's a feeling many have in small business and it will play on people's minds.’
      • ‘For one thing, small businesses are not big enough to maintain regulatory compliance departments.’
      • ‘The fund also aims to improve access for unemployed residents to the job market and aid the small business community.’
      • ‘As a small business owner, one of the most important relationships you are likely to form will be with your bank manager.’
      • ‘The roof will be a garden, covered with spice and herb plants from around the world and would be a focus for small businesses.’
      • ‘The study showed that small business owners and managers felt they came up with seven good ideas a month.’
      • ‘He said the experience gave him a new appreciation for small business owners.’
      • ‘Many small business bosses are either too busy to activate their export potential or do not recognise that it exists.’
      • ‘There are thousands and thousands of small businesses, all of them related together in a complex pattern.’
      • ‘But as a small business we can only improve our services if the services that are run get the support of the public.’
      • ‘So what we consider a small business I think has changed over the last 10 years or so.’
      • ‘Initially the system is seen as most suitable for small businesses, and promises to be a tenth of the cost of leased lines.’
      • ‘If these proposals go ahead they're going to hit small businesses hard.’
      • ‘I would work with big and small businesses, bringing them together with local bodies such as the council.’
      • ‘There's a small business near here that specialises in collecting wrecked cars from all around the county.’
      • ‘But it was aimed mainly at attracting small business and we needed to replace thousands of lost jobs.’
      • ‘I understand you're planning an event aimed at owners of small businesses this week.’
      • ‘The clients range from big chain stores, government right down to small businesses.’
      • ‘It is appealing for other small business owners to pay for booklets for their local school.’
      • ‘How often do you have the time to chase up all those bad debts, especially if you're a small business?’
    8. 1.8archaic Low or inferior in rank or position; socially undistinguished.
      ‘at dinner, some of the smaller neighbors were invited’


  • Small items of clothing, especially underwear.

    • ‘But rather than put on tracksuits, the players stay in their smalls.’
    • ‘Do we know if secreted about his smalls he has a pair of boxer shorts in either the ancient or red tartan of his venerable clanspersons?’
    • ‘In order to make life easier for all you men out there this Christmas, he undertook some painstaking research into the dos and don'ts of buying smalls for your loved one.’
    • ‘Shopper at the next till down, also clutching a big pile of smalls: ‘Mine are going further than yours.’’
    • ‘I now know for certain that our smalls do far more than just cover our modesty and keep out cold draughts.’
    • ‘The market place for sex toys and smalls, it seems, is anything but small and the three companies have much in common.’
    • ‘No good, my smalls were destined to be scrutinised.’
    • ‘There are greying smalls on the radiator; dishes are piled higher in the sink than a prestigious Dubai development.’
    • ‘As the Lost Sock Diner is located next door to the laundromat at the foot of Edinburgh's oh-so-trendy (though over-rated) Broughton Street, you can clean your smalls while you munch your eggs.’
    • ‘I'm still not sure about that (when I think of sharing pleasure, I visualise a tube of Pringles) but buying smalls is even beginning to seem like it could be fun.’
    • ‘And also, it's good to be reminded that my smalls haven't always resembled a Second World War parachute.’
    • ‘Jean in a London laundromat, wryly observes: ‘I squandered my life's savings to watch my smalls go round.’’
    • ‘I should just try to buy some smalls that aren't black…’
    • ‘I bought all sizes of covers at once; if I was in a pinch and my smalls were all in the wash, I could use a medium to hold us over until laundry was done.’
    • ‘As I scurried to retrieve my smalls, the whirr of a dozen camera motor drives signalled that the whole unhappy episode was being captured on film.’
    • ‘After all, what better place can you think of to wash your smalls and do your weekly shop than down your local?’
    • ‘Apparently, the idea of extreme ironing as a competitive sport began life in the back garden of a terraced house in Leicester, when a young man decided to iron his smalls outdoors.’
    • ‘Most retail philistines won't quite see what all the fuss is about; smalls are smalls, they murmur, no matter where they are sold.’
    • ‘Surely most of us would rather eat a week's worth of room-service leftovers than have a stranger handle our smalls?’
    • ‘Perhaps some such atavistic feelings persist in Britain today about the position of someone who does personal services, such as rinsing people's smalls.’
    • ‘That makes her quite different from most actresses of her generation, who seem to treat their job like a bit of a giggle between being photographed in their smalls for lad mags.’
    • ‘They do their best to look casual and nonchalant whilst walking through someone else's back yard and (in Steve's case) leaning on a washing line filled with women's smalls.’
    • ‘Now you see this is the sort of tradition you want, a timeless prohibition on wringing out strangers' smalls.’
    • ‘Well, how many plumbers can say they've had twenty pound notes stuffed down their smalls by bored city types?’
    • ‘Of course you could just do some washing - but you don't really want the hassle of washing your smalls when you're trying to enjoy yourself, do you?’
    • ‘The moment he's sitting in his smalls centre stage, rocking backwards and forwards, moaning to himself, a suggestion is made that perhaps it's time to get out of Dodge.’
    • ‘When it comes to our long-term partners, however, we want them to look chaste, freshly laundered and clean when they strip down to their smalls.’
    • ‘Laundry was a constant bane, so we washed our smalls and hung them on lines strung underneath the top bunk.’
    • ‘The surest way to set the heart pounding and the palms sweating is to get a sudden mental flash of the person you are meant to be interviewing sitting in their smalls.’
    • ‘When the lavandera came knocking, I was only too happy to give her my jeans and sheets and towels for washing - though I kept my smalls and still did them myself.’
    • ‘If I could now ask you to drop your trousers and smalls…’
    • ‘After she sent him photographs of herself in her smalls he decided to up-sticks to the States to be with her.’
    • ‘Where is the fun of slithering into layers of lacy surprises for your partner if he already sees the make, colour and size of your smalls?’


  • 1Into small pieces.

    ‘the okra cut up small’
    1. 1.1 In a small size.
      ‘you shouldn't write so small’
      • ‘It started out small and kept on expanding until it became one of the largest universities in the region.’
      • ‘The US may grumble that Europe talks big and acts small, but that is pretty much what Washington wants.’


  • feel (or look) small

    • Feel (or look) contemptibly weak or insignificant.

      • ‘Aislinn suddenly felt small and insignificant.’
      • ‘Staring up at the stars, Lauren usually felt small and insignificant, but this time instead she felt important, too important.’
      • ‘I felt small and weak, like a young child lost and confused.’
      • ‘He felt small and weak now, weighed down by shame and regret.’
      • ‘Freshmen stood timidly together in circles, looking small and insignificant.’
      • ‘He looked small and weak underneath the pale blue lab coat.’
      • ‘Arriving the first day, ‘I felt small and insignificant,’ she said.’
      • ‘Are there some people or situations that make you feel small or weak when you encounter them?’
      • ‘Huddled together in front of the fireplace, with the four other children, Eleanor and Katrina felt small and insignificant; Eleanor considerably so.’
      • ‘He felt small, unimportant, insignificant; lost.’
  • it's a small world

    • Used to express surprise at meeting an acquaintance or discovering a personal connection in a distant place or an unexpected context.

      • ‘I was chatting with her about my family and studies and it turned out that she had worked with my Mum when she was pregnant with me - it just shows what a small world it is!’
      • ‘‘Really,’ he said, ‘I'm from Glendale, Arizona--what a small world.’’
      • ‘Her last address is in… well, what a small world, Salisbury, Massachusetts.’
      • ‘This just proves it is a small world after all.’
      • ‘Meeting you set me to thinking what a small world it was which was topped off by discovering that Rodney's girlfriend's mum walks her dog in the same place that I do, and I know her, and her three legged beastie!’
      • ‘Proving that it is a small world, Russ is the son-in-law of Jack.’
  • no small ——

    • A good deal of ——

      ‘a matter of no small consequence’
      • ‘And that's no small something for a country that's been at war for virtually all of its 58-year existence.’
      • ‘They are building homes again as you read this, and in no small numbers either.’
      • ‘Of course, the prospect of watching the sun set over the Pacific or soaking up some rays on Oahu in the middle of the Australian winter are no small considerations.’
      • ‘Even minor things can bungle hard work, and English materials in international events are no small problems.’
      • ‘There are no small issues for Lt. Col. Dave Mackenzie when it comes to providing combat search and rescue for a mission encompassing more than 2 million square miles of the country.’
      • ‘For eons it has offered nutritious plant growth that the mothers use to produce milk for their calves and harbors fewer predators than surrounding locations - no small concerns when newborns are too weak to escape wolves and bears.’
      • ‘Hibs upped the ante even further in the second half and this was in no small a part due to Riordan and Brown, stretching Aberdeen on the wings.’
      • ‘T.S. Eliot went to no small pains to energetically denounce the ‘epidemic’ that was ‘Bergsonism.’’
  • the small of the back

    • The part of a person's back where the spine curves in at the level of the waist.

      • ‘When cleaning the carcass, be sure to remove the rather pungent sacs on the small of the back and under the forelegs.’
      • ‘When a Japanese wants to let a woman go first, he usually gives her a good push in the small of the back, and I have not yet got used to being treated in this way by men who I have only just met.’
      • ‘If the chair back stops at the level of the small of the back, or anywhere below the shoulder blades, it is best given a curve.’
      • ‘The needle is passed into the space between two of the spinal bones in the small of the back (lumbar vertebrae).’
      • ‘‘Hey,’ I heard as I was prodded in the small of the back by a tuba.’
      • ‘Reacting on instinct, not thinking of the consequences, I rush forward and throw a punch, hitting him squarely in the small of the back, just above his tail.’
      • ‘A pain numbing medicine is put into the small of the back with a needle.’
      • ‘When this occurs, it usually occurs on the anterior or posterior thigh or the small of the back.’
      • ‘Lower back pain is described as aching, soreness, stiffness, or spasms in the small of the back.’
      • ‘For example, a rolled towel in the small of the back may help keep the normal curve and distribute stresses correctly, particularly when sitting for prolonged periods.’
  • small potatoes

    • informal Something insignificant or unimportant.

      ‘her business was small potatoes’
      • ‘It's also small potatoes when compared to the estimated $464 million Ottawa spent on drug enforcement between 1999-2000.’
      • ‘It's going to be small potatoes compared to the bruising he's going to get from Republicans, including the president, if in fact he gets the Democratic nomination.’
      • ‘At any rate, these in-house disagreements between friends of social insurance are small potatoes compared to the epic struggle over whether or not we should phase it out.’
      • ‘In a year when our public school board was usurped by a provincial appointee and the prospect of a 40-cent TTC fare hike was raised, these achievements may seem like small potatoes.’
      • ‘This city may be significant in relation to places like Port Perry or Kamloops, but alongside the true major capitals of the world - New York or London - it's small potatoes.’
      • ‘I realize that this is small potatoes in the grand scheme of government encroachments into private enterprise, but it is a no-brainer for someone who even leans libertarian.’
      • ‘And that's no small potatoes for Florida's $120 million industry.’
      • ‘And, says president Tom Russell, the time savings is no small potatoes in his industry, where prices can fluctuate 100% in 24 hours and product shelf life is measured in days.’
      • ‘The recent update thing may seem like small potatoes - I don't know if I even get any hits from that - but it's the principle that matters here.’
      • ‘Amazingly enough, Tom Brokaw has become as well-known in author as he is an anchor, and that is no small potatoes!’
  • small wonder

    • Not very surprising.

      ‘it's small wonder that her emotions had seesawed’


Old English smæl, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch smal and German schmal.