Definition of small in US English:



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

    ‘the room was small and quiet’
    ‘the small hill that sheltered the house’
    • ‘I have slept little in cramped aeroplane seats and gloriously on motel beds the size of a small European farm.’
    • ‘Five days in, his feet had turned purple with pus-filled blisters the size of small plums.’
    • ‘We watched a chunk of ice crash into the sea fairly close to us, which was the size of a small home.’
    • ‘The male moorhen about the same size as a small chicken was close to death when walkers spotted him bobbing in the River Ray.’
    • ‘Any left over pastry was made into very small balls, the size of a walnut and dropped into the simmering water.’
    • ‘What you're feeling is the size of a small cushion, curving upwards under your lungs.’
    • ‘The precision of variance components is reduced when sample size is small.’
    • ‘They are of different sizes, most of them about the size of a small lemon, but round in shape.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In fact the engine is the size of a small piano, makes considerably more noise, and pumps out 400 bhp.’
    • ‘In the middle of the white wormy thing, which fills the entire shell, is a green blob about the size of a small sprout.’
    • ‘But during an operation the vet found a ball bearing in the eye socket, the size of a small marble.’
    • ‘In Baywatch, the crews inhabit beach towers the size of a small house.’
    • ‘The key device, which is about the size of a small box of wooden matches, slides into a slot in the dashboard.’
    • ‘On one wall is a typical American fridge, the size of a small office block.’
    • ‘Staff revealed that four ovens were situated on the ground floor, two electric and two gas, each the same size as a small car.’
    • ‘Each of the rooms is the size of a small apartment with a big bathroom, including a bathtub and hot water.’
    • ‘Its high performance in a small case size also means that the costs can be reduced by using fewer or smaller capacitors.’
    • ‘They are small mines, the size of tennis balls, made of plastic so you can't detect them.’
    • ‘Other parents said the small class sizes helped their children with their academic achievements.’
    little, small-scale, compact, bijou
    short, little, slight, slightly built, small-boned, petite, diminutive, elfin, tiny
    inadequate, meagre, insufficient, ungenerous, not enough
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Not great in amount, number, strength, or power.
      ‘a rather small amount of money’
      • ‘Both areas were receiving small amounts of money over the years but little progress was being made.’
      • ‘I was not referring to that case, which involves a relatively small amount of money.’
      • ‘They are usually played for a small amount of money, and there is no process of betting to raise the stake.’
      • ‘He spun the usual hard luck story that his family were hungry so I agreed to advance him a small amount of money.’
      • ‘It is making me ridiculously happy, so it must have been worth the small amount of money I spent.’
      • ‘I was provided with a small amount of money and within a year three drafts had been written.’
      • ‘I was cut off from making the small amount of money that had really made the difference in my family's life.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If the insulation is burnt off the copper wiring, it can be sold for a small amount of money.’
      • ‘He has been included as a party only because there was a small amount of money involved from his point of view.’
      • ‘To keep it in good shape visitors to it are requested to pay a small amount of money to have a look inside.’
      • ‘The good news is that books can be bought for relatively small amounts of money.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In fact, it would put only a small amount of money into the hands of those who really need it.’
      • ‘For most people, it makes sense to invest small amounts of money on a regular basis, say, monthly.’
      • ‘Prior to the euro, some countries used notes for quite small amounts of money.’
      • ‘They have said that families and other people can invest a small amount of money and get a huge return.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘While they were out on one particular date he forced entry and stole a small amount of money.’
    2. 1.2 Not fully grown or developed; young.
      ‘as a small boy, he spent his days either reading or watching TV’
      • ‘Neither did they know of the sacrifices made by small boy, grown beyond his years, so that he could keep them all safe.’
      • ‘Another example might be the recent kidnapping and murder of two small girls in a village in England.’
      • ‘The embryos formed young plants with small true leaf-like leaves and roots.’
      • ‘I had to share a plate with a young mother who had a small boy, with dirty fingers poking into the food.’
      • ‘As a small boy, he appeared as the youngest brother in the musical Peter Pan.’
      • ‘Two minutes later I'm looking at her womb and the small shape growing within it.’
      • ‘I like seeing all the small children and they grow up and go to big school then another lot comes along.’
      • ‘I lost my original plant, but I have a small plant grown from the original seed and I'm starting again.’
      • ‘As a small boy Johnnie grew up to know and love those lovely hills that surrounded his home in Castlerock.’
      • ‘A small baobab tree is growing out of the filth in the middle of the concrete-lined ditch.’
      • ‘They are often young mothers with small children, mothers who have no patience and who are quick with their hands.’
      • ‘All the heart disease sufferers had been born small and didn't grow well in infancy.’
      • ‘My next door neighbour at the time was a lady called Marlene Crane, a young mum with two small children.’
      • ‘Two other friends, a young couple with a small daughter, lived in the top floor flat.’
      • ‘She pointed over to a gaggle of small boys, the eldest about seven, the youngest not even a year old.’
      • ‘Upon entering, he found dozens of small children and young women in a large, dark room.’
      • ‘This will leave a very young woman and a small baby in very difficult social circumstances for a number of years.’
      • ‘From the mustard seeds thrown along the path by Vidyapati, small plants had grown.’
      • ‘They sat there, like a young mother and her small child, happy and content just to be together.’
      • ‘The gland is very small in babies and grows at the time of puberty in response to testosterone secreted by the testicles.’
      young, younger, junior, baby, infant, minor
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    3. 1.3 (of a voice) lacking strength and confidence.
      ‘“I'm scared,” she said in a small voice’
      • ‘She came back towards us and asked in a small voice if she could have our autographs.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Her trembling voice was small at first, but as she went on it grew in strength and power.’
      • ‘My voice was small, but everyone turned round and she had no choice but to acknowledge me.’
      • ‘He finished this speech in a small tone of voice that instantly mellowed my anger.’
    4. 1.4 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’
  • 2Insignificant; unimportant.

    ‘these are small points’
    • ‘Conversely, something that initially seems a small and minor incident you might want to ratchet up the scale.’
    • ‘The flowers seem small and insignificant during the day but at twilight they glow in the fading light and look beautiful.’
    • ‘It's a small problem affecting a trivial number of people who effectively choose to be affected.’
    • ‘There was even a lineup at the counter for the small, trivial things like coffee.’
    • ‘He was small and insignificant but had a firearm trained on my navel.’
    • ‘I shudder to think of the way my small, insignificant encounter would be treated today.’
    • ‘All in all he harboured only minor concerns, and these occupied only a small part of him as a whole.’
    • ‘But these small inconsistencies in the plot do not take much away from what is an excellent film.’
    • ‘In universal terms it is a small, insignificant star, fairly average in the great scheme of things.’
    • ‘He makes his presence small, flattens his childish ego into something still and insignificant.’
    • ‘We're a small country, a long way away, with a minor role to play on the world stage.’
    • ‘Since then he has clocked up a number of small parts in minor television dramas and films.’
    • ‘One small planning decision, one minor infringement of a long-forgotten legacy.’
    • ‘Any news, no matter how small or insignificant, could take our minds away for just a moment.’
    • ‘No fact is to small to overlook, no nugget of information too insignificant to discard.’
    • ‘The law is not mindful of small things or trivial things.’
    • ‘The peaks of Glen Shiel loomed over and made me feel deliciously small and insignificant.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Now, it might seem a small argument over a minor, obscure piece of parliamentary procedure.’
    slight, minor, unimportant, trifling, trivial, insignificant, inconsequential, inappreciable, inconsiderable, negligible, nugatory, paltry, infinitesimal
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    1. 2.1attributive Little; hardly any.
      ‘the captain had been paying small attention’
    2. 2.2 (of a business or its owner) operating on a modest scale.
      ‘a small farmer’
      • ‘I understand you're planning an event aimed at owners of small businesses this week.’
      • ‘The fund also aims to improve access for unemployed residents to the job market and aid the small business community.’
      • ‘So what we consider a small business I think has changed over the last 10 years or so.’
      • ‘That's a feeling many have in small business and it will play on people's minds.’
      • ‘But it was aimed mainly at attracting small business and we needed to replace thousands of lost jobs.’
      • ‘The clients range from big chain stores, government right down to small businesses.’
      • ‘How often do you have the time to chase up all those bad debts, especially if you're a small business?’
      • ‘The study showed that small business owners and managers felt they came up with seven good ideas a month.’
      • ‘There's a small business near here that specialises in collecting wrecked cars from all around the county.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It is appealing for other small business owners to pay for booklets for their local school.’
      • ‘As a small business owner, one of the most important relationships you are likely to form will be with your bank manager.’
      • ‘Initially the system is seen as most suitable for small businesses, and promises to be a tenth of the cost of leased lines.’
      • ‘I would work with big and small businesses, bringing them together with local bodies such as the council.’
      • ‘If these proposals go ahead they're going to hit small businesses hard.’
      • ‘He said the experience gave him a new appreciation for small business owners.’
      • ‘For one thing, small businesses are not big enough to maintain regulatory compliance departments.’
      • ‘The roof will be a garden, covered with spice and herb plants from around the world and would be a focus for small businesses.’
      small-scale, small-time
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3archaic Low or inferior in rank or position; socially undistinguished.
      ‘at dinner, some of the smaller neighbors were invited’

plural noun

  • 1British informal Small items of clothing, especially underwear.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘Jean in a London laundromat, wryly observes: ‘I squandered my life's savings to watch my smalls go round.’’
    • ‘I now know for certain that our smalls do far more than just cover our modesty and keep out cold draughts.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘And also, it's good to be reminded that my smalls haven't always resembled a Second World War parachute.’
    • ‘The market place for sex toys and smalls, it seems, is anything but small and the three companies have much in common.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If I could now ask you to drop your trousers and smalls…’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Laundry was a constant bane, so we washed our smalls and hung them on lines strung underneath the top bunk.’
    • ‘Perhaps some such atavistic feelings persist in Britain today about the position of someone who does personal services, such as rinsing people's smalls.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Well, how many plumbers can say they've had twenty pound notes stuffed down their smalls by bored city types?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Now you see this is the sort of tradition you want, a timeless prohibition on wringing out strangers' smalls.’
    • ‘I should just try to buy some smalls that aren't black…’
    • ‘After all, what better place can you think of to wash your smalls and do your weekly shop than down your local?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There are greying smalls on the radiator; dishes are piled higher in the sink than a prestigious Dubai development.’
    • ‘Surely most of us would rather eat a week's worth of room-service leftovers than have a stranger handle our smalls?’
    • ‘After she sent him photographs of herself in her smalls he decided to up-sticks to the States to be with her.’
    • ‘No good, my smalls were destined to be scrutinised.’
    • ‘But rather than put on tracksuits, the players stay in their smalls.’
    • ‘Most retail philistines won't quite see what all the fuss is about; smalls are smalls, they murmur, no matter where they are sold.’
    • ‘Shopper at the next till down, also clutching a big pile of smalls: ‘Mine are going further than yours.’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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?’
  • 2West Indian treated as singular A gratuity or small gift of money.

    • ‘When he lifted up the box, fudge, icicle, ice cream cake or nutty buddy on sale for a smalls?’
    • ‘Nevertheless, I managed to fill up the car out by the Harbour View station when I drove out there in the evening to look upon two skin rashes and earn a smalls.’
    • ‘Now I don't want you to feel that the owners of the Bayside Cafe slipped me a smalls for me to big them up.’
    • ‘An old man came begging at the gate, he offered to wash the cars for a smalls.’
    • ‘Go drop some comment in him box, and you can leave a smalls here as well.’
    gratuity, baksheesh, bonus, little extra, bit extra, present, gift, reward, inducement
    View synonyms


  • 1Into small pieces.

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


  • feel (or look) small

    • Feel (or look) contemptibly weak or insignificant.

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

    • On a small scale.

      ‘in a small way his life has been improved’
      • ‘The thefts started in the 1970s in a small way when Western tourists were first allowed to enter the country.’
      • ‘More than anything I want to make a difference, even in a small way.’
      • ‘I am myself an employer, in a small way, and I see hundreds of CVs a year; and all of them now have so many As that the page reads like the wail of a man falling off a building.’
      • ‘I'm also pledging £10 myself to make up in a small way for my abysmal failure to attract sponsorship.’
      • ‘Sweet, and in a small way, almost life-affirming.’
      • ‘I am doing my bit for the environment, albeit in a small way.’
      • ‘It all began in a small way when in 1939 the imminence of war led the Government to build up reserves of building materials in various parts of the country, for use following air raids.’
      • ‘But what if, in a small way, shopping does offer salvation?’
      • ‘But they say their tests prove that phones do, in a small way, affect the brain.’
      • ‘Even I, as a foreigner, benefitted in a small way from his goodness.’
  • it is (or what) a small world

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘Really,’ he said, ‘I'm from Glendale, Arizona--what a small world.’’
      • ‘This just proves it is a small world after all.’
      • ‘Her last address is in… well, what a small world, Salisbury, Massachusetts.’
      • ‘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!’
  • no small —

    • A good deal of —

      ‘a matter of no small consequence’
      • ‘They are building homes again as you read this, and in no small numbers either.’
      • ‘T.S. Eliot went to no small pains to energetically denounce the ‘epidemic’ that was ‘Bergsonism.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And that's no small something for a country that's been at war for virtually all of its 58-year existence.’
      • ‘Even minor things can bungle hard work, and English materials in international events are no small problems.’
  • small is beautiful

    • Used, especially in environmentalism, to express the belief that something small-scale is better than a large-scale equivalent.

      • ‘‘In this business, small is beautiful,’ says Turnbull.’
      • ‘With water technology, as with just about everything else, small is beautiful.’
      • ‘Many companies have decided that small is beautiful.’
      • ‘But is seems that once again, small is beautiful for a growing band of consumers, and Scottish family butchers are leading the counter-attack against what they claim is the shrink-wrapped uniformity of supermarkets.’
      • ‘For information professionals, small is beautiful.’
      • ‘As might have been suspected, small is beautiful in the eyes of scientists and engineers.’
      • ‘Today, small is beautiful, because, with a little forethought in planning, our unique and precious remaining wilderness habitats can absorb and readjust to these.’
      • ‘In his eyes small is beautiful - in fact the smaller the better.’
      • ‘We have sectors of society for whom the trend is moving away from buying from the big multi-nationals and for whom small is beautiful and local is beautiful.’
      • ‘The amounts of money involved are not enormous, compared with the resources available to the big international players, but small is beautiful.’
  • the small of the back

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When this occurs, it usually occurs on the anterior or posterior thigh or the small of the back.’
      • ‘When cleaning the carcass, be sure to remove the rather pungent sacs on the small of the back and under the forelegs.’
      • ‘A pain numbing medicine is put into the small of the back with a needle.’
      • ‘‘Hey,’ I heard as I was prodded in the small of the back by a tuba.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Lower back pain is described as aching, soreness, stiffness, or spasms in the small of the back.’
      • ‘The needle is passed into the space between two of the spinal bones in the small of the back (lumbar vertebrae).’
      • ‘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.’
  • small potatoes

    • informal Something insignificant or unimportant.

      ‘her business was small potatoes’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Amazingly enough, Tom Brokaw has become as well-known in author as he is an anchor, and that is no small potatoes!’
      • ‘It's also small potatoes when compared to the estimated $464 million Ottawa spent on drug enforcement between 1999-2000.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And that's no small potatoes for Florida's $120 million industry.’
      • ‘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.’
  • small profits and quick returns

    • The policy of a cheap store which relies on low prices and a large turnover.

      • ‘We believe in honesty, fine quality, small profits and quick returns.’
      • ‘The men of Yathreb were narrow-minded, of the peasant and shopkeeping spirit, and they lived parsimoniously on small profits and quick returns.’
      • ‘Dorothy Davis characterizes some of the 19 th century sales innovations as ‘summed up in a new saying: small profits and quick returns.’’
      • ‘Local enterprises are urged to pursue small profits and quick returns to compete for a larger market share.’
      • ‘Following the dark hour of absolute panic, labor will be thankful for what it can get and will save slowly out of smaller wages, while capital will be content with small profits and quick returns.’
  • 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.