small beer


Definition of small beer

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

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 That's small beer compared to the lackluster engine performance, but this won't surprise any current-generation Forester owners because the Wilderness has the same 2.5-liter flat-four with a middling 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Dan Edmunds, Car and Driver, 25 Oct. 2021 The reason for the epic drive: After forming in Lubbock in 2012 and graduating from small beer joints to Texas dance halls and beyond, the group is now set to make its Grand Ole Opry debut in Nashville on Friday. Jon Freeman, Rolling Stone, 22 Oct. 2021 To be sure — three of my favorite weasel words — these large home value increases are relatively small beer compared with the far bigger increase in the value of U.S. stocks over the same period. Washington Post, 16 June 2021 That makes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 look like small beer. Mickey D. Levy And Michael D. Bordo, WSJ, 26 Apr. 2021 Even this was small beer compared with the $650m that Google then paid for DeepMind, a company with 50 employees and no revenues. Calum Chace, Forbes, 7 Apr. 2021 In November, Baerlic converted its adjacent taproom to a small beer and wine shop, closing down most on-site seating. Michael Russell, oregonlive, 11 Feb. 2021 Converted into a bar for the small beer garden beside the building, an Airstream trailer is being painted by local artist UNO. Jeremy Hallock, Dallas News, 15 Dec. 2020 But small beer compared to, say, death by a slippery virus. Scott Burns, Dallas News, 4 Dec. 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of small beer

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best beverage coolers.

Learn More About small beer

Time Traveler for small beer

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About small beer

Dictionary Entries Near small beer

small ball

small beer

small-billed water thrush

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for small beer

Cite this Entry

“Small beer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for small beer

small beer


English Language Learners Definition of small beer

More from Merriam-Webster on small beer Encyclopedia article about small beer


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!