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 \ 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

Some of this may sound like small beer, but the history of information technology shows that small tweaks have often been effective in bringing down the giants. The Economist, "The art of the possibleThere is no single solution to making the internet more decentralised," 28 June 2018 Microbreweries are small beer manufacturers who produce less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year for on- or off-site consumption. Karen Pearlman,, "Santee poised to allow more microbreweries," 3 July 2018 The system is meant to make sure that big beer manufacturers can’t use their muscle with retailers to push out smaller beer brands. Kyle Arnold,, "7 ways Orlando's craft beer brewing scene is changing in 2018," 26 June 2018 There's nothing surreal, though, about the brewpub, a friendly, homey spot with a small beer garden and an extensive menu of sandwiches, burgers, flatbreads, and entrees like fish-and-chips. Julia Thiel, Chicago Reader, "Take a chill ride to northwest Indiana—and its two-dozen breweries," 22 June 2018 But that's just small beer compared with the riches on offer for the winner at stud. Rob Hodgetts, CNN, "The Derby: Saxon Warrior set for '£50M payday' for Epsom Classic win," 31 May 2018 One employee monitored the small beer and wine section to manually check IDs. Bloomberg News,, "Amazon Go, a cashless convenience store, opens in Seattle," 22 Jan. 2018 One employee monitored the small beer and wine section to manually check IDs. Bloomberg News,, "Amazon Go, a cashless convenience store, opens in Seattle," 22 Jan. 2018 That is small beer compared with the advantages enjoyed by the children of the educated and wealthy. The Economist, "Genes and backgrounds matter most to exam results," 26 Mar. 2018

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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the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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