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Meaning of “little” in the English Dictionary

"little" in British English

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littleadjective

uk   /ˈlɪt.əl/ us   /ˈlɪt̬.əl/
  • little adjective (SMALL)

A1 small in size or amount: It came in a little box. a little dog/nose/room A little old man came into the room. He gave a little smile. It'll only take a little while to clear up the kitchen.
a little something
a small amount of food or drink: I always like to have a little something around eleven o'clock in the morning.
a present that is not of great value: I want to buy a little something to give to Val when I visit her in hospital.

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  • little adjective (YOUNG)

A1 young: When you were little your hair was really curly. She was my little (= younger) sister and I took care of her. Her little boy (= her young son) isn't well.

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  • little adjective (EMPHASIZE)

B2 [before noun] used to emphasize an opinion that is being given about something or someone: That was a nice little suit she was wearing. It's not a bad little restaurant, is it? He's a nasty little man.

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littledeterminer

uk   /ˈlɪt.əl/ us   /ˈlɪt̬.əl/

littlepronoun, noun

uk   /ˈlɪt.əl/ us   /ˈlɪt̬.əl/
  • little pronoun, noun (SMALL AMOUNT)

B1 [S] a small amount: I could only hear a little of what they were saying. He does as little as possible at work. There's not much flour left but you're welcome to the/what little there is.

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  • We ate a little of the bread.
  • He gave us a little of his money.
  • I already knew a little of what he had to say.
  • She eats as little as she can.
  • You can see what little I have.
  • little pronoun, noun (NOT ENOUGH)

B1 an amount that is not much or not enough: We did very little on Sunday. Very little of what he said made any sense to me. Unfortunately, little of the artist's work has survived. The government has done little or nothing to help the poorest people in this country. The little we do know about the people who lived here suggests they had a very sophisticated society.

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littleadverb

uk   /ˈlɪt.əl/ us   /ˈlɪt̬.əl/
  • little adverb (SMALL AMOUNT)

a little (bit)

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A2 slightly: I was a little bit worried by what she said. We'll wait a little longer and then I'll phone them. There's only a little further to go.
little by little
B2 slowly or gradually: Little by little she came to understand why he had behaved the way he did.
(Definition of little from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"little" in American English

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littleadjective

us   /ˈlɪt̬·əl/
  • little adjective (SMALL)

[-er/-est only] small in size or amount, or brief in time: She has a little room on the top floor where she works on her computer. They have very little money. It’ll take me a little while longer to get ready.
[-er/-est only] Little can be used with approving words for emphasis: They have a nice little house.
  • little adjective (YOUNG)

[-er/-est only] young: When you were little, you and your brother were always fighting. My little brother/sister (= younger brother or sister) is seven years old. He stayed home from work today because his little boy/girl (= young son or daughter) is sick.
  • little adjective (NOT IMPORTANT)

[not gradable] not important or not serious: I had a little problem with my car, but it’s fixed now.

littleadverb

us   /ˈlɪt̬·əl/ comparative less /les/ , superlative least /list/
  • little adverb (NOT MUCH)

not much: The county has done little to improve the traffic problem. It’s a little-known fact that technically ticks are not insects.
a little
A little means slightly: She was a little frightened. You’re walking a little too fast for me.

littlepronoun, noun [U]

us   /ˈlɪt̬·əl/
  • little pronoun, noun [U] (SMALL)

a small amount: I could understand very little of what he said.
a little
A little means a small amount of something: "Do we have any sugar left?" "A little."
(Definition of little from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
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