small beer

noun

Definition of small beer

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.

See More

First Known Use of small beer

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

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

Statistics for small beer

Last Updated

13 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Small beer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/small%20beer. Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

More from Merriam-Webster on small beer

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for small beer

Britannica.com: 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).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Words of Snow and Ice Quiz

  • image1037863653
  • Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?
True or False

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Typeshift

Anagram puzzles meet word search.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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