small beer

noun

Definition of small beer

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

small-beer

play \ˈsmȯl-ˈbir\ adjective

small beer was our Word of the Day on 02/21/2014. Hear the podcast!

Examples of small beer in a Sentence

  1. the money we spend on cable is small beer compared to the mortgage payment we have to come up with every month

Recent Examples of small beer from the Web

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.

Did You Know?

Small beer dates from Shakespeare's day. The Bard didn't coin it (he would have been just a child in 1568, the date of the first documented instance of small beer), 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."

First Known Use of small beer

15th century



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to praise usually to excess

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