small beer


: weak or inferior beer
: something of small importance : trivia
small-beer 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 And there's a possibility there may be a small beer garden near the barbecue area, but this detail had not yet been finalized. The Arizona Republic, 16 Aug. 2023 Twelve pieces max are complemented by a small beer and sake selection. Amy Drew Thompson, Orlando Sentinel, 24 Feb. 2023 But this is small beer compared to being willing to absorb a $6.7 billion dollar hit over a decade in service of Indiana’s SPI interests. Robert G. Eccles, Forbes, 21 Feb. 2023 Soon to come are more food trucks, spots to grab coffee, areas for buskers and even a small beer garden, said Ben Davis, head of Illuminate. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, 27 Sep. 2022 Count us skeptical that Democrats will back any substantive reforms that could ease fossil-fuel development, but even those on the table seem to be small beer. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 2 Aug. 2022 Concerns about prices of pork, soybeans and solar panels are small beer in light of this scourge, which is now responsible for the annual deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. WSJ, 12 July 2022 One of the village’s longest streets, School Street, winding past homes and a small beer and kvass stand, was cratered from bombs and littered with shrapnel. Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, 30 May 2022 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'small beer.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near small beer

Cite this Entry

“Small beer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

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