\ ˈsmȯl-ˌfrī How to pronounce small-fry (audio) \

Definition of small-fry

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

small fry

plural small fry or less commonly small fries

Definition of small fry (Entry 2 of 2)

1 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 WinnMothers and fathers, their small fry hopping from ledge to ledge with them, are climbing mountains from the Appalachians to the Rockies.— John DevaneyEver 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
2 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
3 : 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

First Known Use of small-fry


1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1577, in the meaning defined at sense 3

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The first known use of small-fry was in 1577

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Dictionary Entries Near small-fry

small fry


small game

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Cite this Entry

“Small-fry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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