Entries linking to small-town
Middle English smal, smale, from Old English smæl "thin, slender, narrow; fine," from Proto-Germanic *smal- "small animal; small" (source also of Old Saxon, Danish, Swedish, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German smal, Old Frisian smel, German schmal "narrow, slender," Gothic smalista "smallest," Old Norse smali "small cattle, sheep"), perhaps from a PIE root *(s)melo- "smaller animal" (source also of Greek melon, Old Irish mil "a small animal;" Old Church Slavonic malu "bad").
The original sense of "narrow" now is generally restricted to waistlines (c. 1300) and intestines (late Old English).
My sister ... is as white as a lilly, and as small as a wand. [Shakespeare, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," 1591]
The sense of "not large, of little size, of less than ordinary dimensions" developed in Old English. Of children, "young, not fully developed," from mid-13c. The meaning "little or inferior in degree or amount" is from late 13c. That of "trivial, unimportant, of little weight or moment" is from mid-14c. The sense of "having little property or trade" is from 1746. That of "characterized by littleness of mind or spirit, base, low, selfish" is from 1824.
Small fry is by 1690s of little fish, 1885 of insignificant people. Small potatoes "no great matter, something petty or insignificant" is attested by 1924; small change, figuratively "something of little value" (with change in the "sum of money" sense) is from 1902; small talk "chit-chat, trifling conversation" (1751) is first recorded in Chesterfield's "Letters." Small-arms, indicating those capable of being carried in the hand (contrasted to ordnance) is recorded from 1710. Small clothes (1796) were knee-breeches, especially those of the 18c., as distinguished from trousers. Small hours (mid-15c.) were originally ecclesiastical, the minor canonical hours.
Small world as a comment upon an unexpected meeting of acquaintances is recorded by 1895. To distinguish generic from specific in phrases such as democrat with a small d, the construction is attested by 1952.
Old English tun "enclosure, garden, field, yard; farm, manor; homestead, dwelling house, mansion;" later "group of houses, village, farm," from Proto-Germanic *tunaz, *tunan "fortified place" (source also of Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian tun "fence, hedge," Middle Dutch tuun "fence," Dutch tuin "garden," Old High German zun, German Zaun "fence, hedge"), an early borrowing from Celtic *dunon "hill, hill-fort" (source also of Old Irish dun, Welsh din "fortress, fortified place, camp," dinas "city," Gaulish-Latin -dunum in place names), from PIE *dhu-no- "enclosed, fortified place, hill-fort," from root *dheue- "to close, finish, come full circle" (see down (n.2)).
Meaning "inhabited place larger than a village" (mid-12c.) arose after the Norman conquest from the use of this word to correspond to French ville. The modern word is partially a generic term, applicable to cities of great size as well as places intermediate between a city and a village; such use is unusual, the only parallel is perhaps Latin oppidium, which occasionally was applied even to Rome or Athens (each of which was more properly an urbs).
First record of town hall is from late 15c. Town ball, version of baseball, is recorded from 1852. Town car (1907) originally was a motor car with an enclosed passenger compartment and open driver's seat. On the town "living the high life" is from 1712. Go to town "do (something) energetically" is first recorded 1933. Man about town "one constantly seen at public and private functions" is attested from 1734.
updated on January 19, 2023
Dictionary entries near small-town