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 But small beer compared to, say, death by a slippery virus. Scott Burns, Dallas News, "Scott Burns: How are your investments doing in 2020?," 4 Dec. 2020 That's a big problem for small beer breweries, says Isamu Yoneda, head distiller at artisanal drinks maker Kiuchi Brewery. Rebecca Cairns, CNN, "Japanese craft breweries are turning unsold beer into gin," 22 Oct. 2020 The fruit that apes were eating was probably 1 to 4 percent alcohol, somewhere between small beer and Michelob Ultra. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Ancient Drunk Gorillas Are the Reason You Can Tolerate Booze Today," 5 Dec. 2019 At a cost of just over $2 billion, that measure is small beer. Geoffrey Smith, Fortune, "Are cash-handouts, tax holidays and bond purchases really the global economy’s best hope?," 23 Mar. 2020 Taste of Italy Located just south of Goodyear Ballpark, this counter-service restaurant serves New York-style pizza, hot and cold sandwiches, pasta plates and small beer and wine menus. azcentral, "5 restaurants near Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds spring training games in Goodyear," 11 Feb. 2020 But Germany’s government keeps bickering about small beer. Washington Post, "Germany’s Crisis Has Been Averted. But at What Cost?," 6 Dec. 2019 Hard liquor had replaced small beer and other much milder drinks during early American history, and especially after the Civil War, women said liquor was causing drastic increases in domestic violence. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "18 Things You Probably Don't Know About Prohibition," 17 Jan. 2020 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

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

13 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Small beer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

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