little (adj.)

Old English lytel "not large, not much, small in size or number; short in distance or time; unimportant,"

from Proto-Germanic *lutilla- (source also of Old Saxon luttil, Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, German lützel "little"), perhaps originally a diminutive of the root of Old English lyt "little, few," from PIE *leud- "small."

"Often synonymous with small, but capable of emotional implications which small is not" [OED]. Now with less, least, but formerly and in dialect littler, littlest. In terms of endearment from 1560s. Meaning "younger" (of a brother, sister, etc.) is from 1610s. As an adverb, Old English lytel.

Little while "a short time" is from 12c. Phrase the little woman "wife" attested from 1795. Little people "the faeries" is from 1726; as "children" it is attested from 1752; as "ordinary people" (opposed to the great) from 1827. Little death "orgasm" (1932) translates French petite mort. Little Neck clams (1884) are so called for Little Neck, a "neck" of land on Long Island's North Shore, where they first came into favor. Little green men "space aliens" is from 1950. Little boys' room (or girls') as a euphemism for "lavatory" is from 1957. Little breeches for "boy" is by 1785. Little black dress is from 1939.

At the beginning of summer, smart women who stay in town like to wear sheer "little black dresses." Because most "little black dresses" look alike, retailers struggle each year to find something which will make them seem new. [Life magazine, June 13, 1939]

little (v.)

Old English lytlian "to lessen, decrease, become little or less, diminish; shorten; fall out of use; belittle," from root of little (adj.).

little (n.)

late Old English, "small piece, small quantity or amount; a short time; unimportant persons," from little (adj.). Little by little is from late 15c. (litylle be litille). Old English also had lytling "little one, infant child; unimportant person."

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Definitions of little
little (adj.)
(quantifier used with mass nouns) small in quantity or degree; not much or almost none or (with `a') at least some;
little time is left
a little hope remained
little rain fell in May
gave it little thought
we still have little money
Synonyms: slight
little (adj.)
limited or below average in number or quantity or magnitude or extent;
a little house
a little (or small) group
a little dining room
Synonyms: small
little (adj.)
(of children and animals) young, immature;
what a big little boy you are
Synonyms: small
little (adj.)
(informal) small and of little importance;
a little (or small) matter
Synonyms: fiddling / footling / lilliputian / niggling / piddling / piffling / petty / picayune / trivial
little (adj.)
(of a voice) faint;
a little voice
Synonyms: small
little (adj.)
low in stature; not tall;
a little man
Synonyms: short
little (adj.)
little a
Synonyms: minuscule / small
little (adj.)
small in a way that arouses feelings (of tenderness or its opposite depending on the context);
my dear little mother
a sweet little deal
I'm tired of your petty little schemes
what a nasty little situation
bless your little heart
a nice little job
filthy little tricks
little (n.)
a small amount or duration;
he accepted the little they gave him
little (adv.)
not much;
he talked little about his family