small beer


Definition of small beer

1 : weak or inferior beer
2 : something of small importance : trivia

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Other Words from small beer

small-beer \ ˈsmȯl-​ˈbir How to pronounce small-beer (audio) \ adjective

Did You Know?

Small beer dates from Shakespeare's day. The Bard didn't coin it (the word has been in use since the 15th century, well before Shakespeare was born), but he did put the term to good use. In Henry VI, Part 2, for example, the rebel Jack Cade declares that, when he becomes king, he will "make it felony to drink small beer." In Othello, Desdemona asks Iago to describe a "deserving woman." Iago responds by listing praises for ten lines, only to conclude that such a woman would be suited "to suckle fools, and chronicle small beer"; in other words, to raise babies and keep track of insignificant household expenses. Desdemona quickly retorts, declaring Iago's assertion a "most lame and impotent conclusion."

Examples of small beer in a Sentence

the money we spend on cable is small beer compared to the mortgage payment we have to come up with every month
Recent Examples on the Web Three years later, Louis Zistel opened a small beer garden, bathhouse and dance floor. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, "Cedar Point will give away free admission for life for 150th anniversary," 11 Dec. 2019 That may be small beer for now, but Wetherspoon, at least, expects hoppy times ahead. The Economist, "Business this week," 12 Dec. 2019 Although Trillium Fenway is located just outside of the popular Time Out Market, the small beer hall is technically a separate operation that just happens to be located at the same development, a representative said., "Trillium Brewing Co., the darling of the Boston-area craft beer scene, is set to open a new freestanding taproom just outside the Time Out Market in the Fenway, according to the company.," 1 Oct. 2019 Other online shopping sites, including and Pinduoduo, were also offering deals, but were small beer compared to Taobao. Washington Post, "Chinese online shoppers shatter Cyber Monday records on ‘Double 11’," 11 Nov. 2019 Anchor introduced just one new beer in the ’80s (summer wheat); one in the ’90s (a low-alcohol English style dubbed small beer); and two in the decade preceding Maytag’s sale of the brewery (bock and humming ale). San Francisco Chronicle, "Is San Francisco's Anchor Brewing having an identity crisis?," 3 Jan. 2015 In terms of commercial magnitude, six months of retaliatory tariffs are small beer compared with 30 years of currency manipulation, forced technological appropriation, and copyright and patent theft. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Trump — or What, Exactly?," 27 Aug. 2019 The restaurant will extend its specials during the game, which includes select appetizers for $5, small beers for $3.25 and special cocktails for $6.75. Catie Wegman,, "USA vs. Netherlands: Where to watch the Women’s World Cup finals in South Florida," 5 July 2019 Some of this may sound like small beer, but the history of information technology shows that small tweaks have often been effective in bringing down the giants. The Economist, "The art of the possibleThere is no single solution to making the internet more decentralised," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'small beer.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of small beer

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of small beer was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Small beer.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on small beer

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for small beer

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with small beer Encyclopedia article about small beer

Comments on small beer

What made you want to look up small beer? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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