adj. lit·tler or less (lĕs) also less·er (lĕsər), lit·tlest or least (lēst)
a. Small in size: a little dining room.
b. Small in quantity or extent: a little money; a little work on the side. See Synonyms at small.
2. Short in extent or duration; brief: There is little time left.
3. Unimportant; trivial: a little matter.
4. Narrow; petty: mean little comments; a little mind consumed with trivia.
5. Having scant power or influence; of minor status: just a little clerk in the records office.
a. Being at an early stage of growth; young: a little child.
b. Younger or youngest. Used especially of a sibling: My little brother is leaving for college next week.
adv. less or lesser, least
1. Not much; scarcely: works long hours, sleeping little.
2. Not in the least; not at all: They little expected such a generous gift.
1. A small quantity or amount: Give me a little.
2. Something much less than all: I know little of their history.
3. A short distance or time: a little down the road; waited a little.
Somewhat; a bit: felt a little better.
little by little
By small degrees or increments; gradually.
[Middle English, from Old English lȳtel.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.