1 of 2


: minor, unimportant
a small-fry politician
: of, relating to, or intended for children : childish
small-fry sports

small fry

2 of 2


plural small fry also small fries
US, informal : a child
usually plural
Is there really any great difference, one might ask, between that gang of kids playing video games by the hour at their local candy store these days and those small fry who used to hang around together spending equal amounts of time playing marbles?Marie Winn
Mothers and fathers, their small fry hopping from ledge to ledge with them, are climbing mountains from the Appalachians to the Rockies.John Devaney
Ever since the giddy '60s … small-screen small fries have made their mark with clean-cut comedy perfect for fans of all ages.Damian J. Holbrook
informal : someone or something considered insignificant or minor
These two, with their perfunctory fast handshakes, made Henry feel like the small fry he was …Herman Wouk
usually plural
Unfortunately, however, many of the cases on O'Keefe's list involved insignificant small fry who had cheated the government out of relatively small amounts of money and, in some cases, no money at all.David Burnham
: a recently hatched or juvenile fish
usually plural
The basic strategy hasn't changed much since the first competition in 1903: Catch tiddlers, or small fry. This requires a hook the size of a mosquito's leg, a line as fine as a spider's web—and a rod as much as 36 feet long.Barry Newman

Examples of small-fry in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Brad Heppner had the grand idea of bringing investment opportunities enjoyed by Wall Street institutions to small-fry investors. Alexander Gladstone, WSJ, 28 July 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'small-fry.' 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


1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1577, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of small-fry was in 1577

Dictionary Entries Near small-fry

Cite this Entry

“Small-fry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: of or relating to children : childish
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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