From be- +‎ little. Coined by Thomas Jefferson in 1782[1]


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /bɨˈlɪt.əl/
  • (file)
  • (file)
    Rhymes: -ɪtəl


belittle (third-person singular simple present belittles, present participle belittling, simple past and past participle belittled)

  1. (transitive) To knowingly say that something is smaller or less important than it actually is, especially as a way of showing contempt or deprecation. [from 1782]
    Don't belittle your colleagues.
    Synonyms: understate, make light of, denigrate, degrade, deprecate, disparage, downplay, play down, trivialize, bagatellize
    Antonym: exaggerate
    • 1941 March, “Notes and News: Underestimating the Enemy's Strength”, in Railway Magazine, page 129:
      An essential part of any German campaign is obviously the efficiency of its lines of communication and therefore it is dangerous to belittle our enemy's strength in this direction.
    • 2006, Mark Steyn, chapter 9, in America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, →ISBN, page 201:
      Under the rules as understood by the New York Times, the West is free to mock and belittle its Judeo-Christian inheritance, and, likewise, the Muslim world is free to mock and belittle the West's Judeo-Christian inheritance.

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  1. ^ .Thomas Jefferson (1802), “Productions, mineral, vegetable and animal”, in Notes on the State of Virginia (in English), page 90: “So far the Count de Buffon has carried this new theory of the tendency of nature to belittle her productions on this ſide of the Atlantic.”