a little

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adj. lit·tler or less (lĕs) also less·er (lĕs′ər), 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.
a little
Somewhat; a bit: felt a little better.
little by little
By small degrees or increments; gradually.

[Middle English, from Old English lȳtel.]

lit′tle·ness n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


a little
1. 'little' used as an adjective

Little is usually an adjective. You use it to talk about the size of something.

He took a little black book from his pocket.
2. 'a little' used as an adverb

A little is usually an adverb. You use it after a verb, or in front of an adjective or another adverb. It means 'to a small extent or degree'.

They get paid for it. Not much. Just a little.
The local football team is doing a little better.
The celebrations began a little earlier than expected.

Be Careful!
Don't use 'a little' in front of an adjective when the adjective comes in front of a noun. Don't say, for example, 'It was a little better result'. Say 'It was a slightly better result' or 'It was a somewhat better result'.

3. used in front of nouns

Little and a little are also used in front of nouns to talk about quantities. When they are used like this, they do not have the same meaning.

You use a little to show that you are talking about a small quantity or amount of something. When you use little without 'a', you are emphasizing that there is only a small quantity or amount of something.

So, for example, if you say 'I have a little money', you are saying that you have some money. However, if you say 'I have little money', you mean that you do not have enough money.

I had made a little progress.
It is clear that little progress was made.
4. used as pronouns

Little and a little can be used in similar ways as pronouns.

Beat in the eggs, a little at a time.
Little has changed.
5. 'not much'

In conversation and in less formal writing, people do not usually use 'little' without 'a'. Instead they use not much. For example, instead of saying 'I have little money', they say 'I haven't got much money' or 'I don't have much money'.

I haven't got much appetite.
We don't have much time.

Be Careful!
Don't use 'little' or 'a little' when you are talking about a small number of people or things. Don't say, for example, 'She has a little hens'. Say 'She has a few hens'. Similarly, don't say 'Little people attended his lectures'. Say 'Few people attended his lectures', or 'Not many people attended his lectures'.

Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adv.1.a little - to a small degree; somewhat; "it's a bit warm"; "felt a little better"; "a trifle smaller"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
بضعقليلقليلاكميَّة قليلَهمسافةً قصيرَه
en smulelidt
थोड़ा साथोड़ा-थोड़ाथोड़ी-थोड़ी
egy kevésegy kiskevés
dálítiîdálítiî, smávegiseilítillörlítillsmá
en smulalitelite grandlite grann


(ˈlitl) adjective
1. small in size. He is only a little boy; when she was little (= a child).
2. small in amount; not much. He has little knowledge of the difficulties involved.
3. not important. I did not expect her to make a fuss about such a little thing.
(only) a small amount. He knows little of the real world.
1. not much. I go out little nowadays.
2. only to a small degree. a little-known fact.
3. not at all. He little knows how ill he is.
a little
1. a short time or distance. Move a little to the right!
2. a small quantity of something. He has a little money to spare; 'Is there any soup left?' `Yes, a little.'
3. slightly. She was a little frightened.
little by little
gradually. Little by little we began to get to know him.
make little of
1. to treat as unimportant etc. He made little of his injuries.
2. not to be able to understand. I could make little of his instructions.

little means `not much': You have little reason to boast .
a little means `some', `a small quantity': There's a little milk left .
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.
References in classic literature ?
"What's happened?" asked the boy, a little ashamed of his recent exhibition.
The two held a little colloquy together in low voices.
They are related, without suppression or reserve, in a little narrative which my husband wrote, at the time of our marriage, for the satisfaction of one of his absent relatives, whose good opinion he was unwilling to forfeit.
Mr John Browdie, with his hands in his pockets, hovered restlessly about these delicacies, stopping occasionally to whisk the flies out of the sugar-basin with his wife's pocket-handkerchief, or to dip a teaspoon in the milk-pot and carry it to his mouth, or to cut off a little knob of crust, and a little corner of meat, and swallow them at two gulps like a couple of pills.
"Thou'd betther not aggravate me," says schoolmeasther, efther a little time.
With these reproaches Miss Squeers flung the door wide open, and disclosed to the eyes of the astonished Browdies and Nicholas, not only her own symmetrical form, arrayed in the chaste white garments before described (a little dirtier), but the form of her brother and father, the pair of Wackfords.
I shut him out on the landing to wait for the answer, and went into my chambers again, in such a nervous state that I was fain to lay the letter down on my breakfast table, and familiarize myself with the outside of it a little, before I could resolve to break the seal.
'I am not so unreasonable as to expect,' said Agnes, resuming her usual tone, after a little while, 'that you will, or that you can, at once, change any sentiment that has become a conviction to you; least of all a sentiment that is rooted in your trusting disposition.
Agnes laughed again at her own penetration, and told me that if I were faithful to her in my confidence she thought she should keep a little register of my violent attachments, with the date, duration, and termination of each, like the table of the reigns of the kings and queens, in the History of England.
"I planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth brush and kettle holder.
Let's each buy what we want, and have a little fun.
It didn't matter so much when you were a little girl, but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should remember that you are a young lady."
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