What does the phrase "little big" mean?

Samples (game titles):

  1. Little big planet
  2. Little big adventures
  3. Little big magazine
  • 8
    This reminds me of a college friend, who was fascinated by the sentence "It was a little big, and pretty ugly".
    – PSU
    Feb 25, 2011 at 14:16
  • 1
    There's also "big little". Feb 25, 2011 at 14:58
  • @ShreevatsaR Yes, and what's the difference between the two?
    – Michael
    Sep 19, 2016 at 16:02
  • 1
    Those are all oxymorons. Who is dredging up these old questions? :)
    – Lambie
    Apr 9 at 15:08

5 Answers 5


It usually implies that something is little in one way but big in another; for example, a game may want to imply that it is "little" in being approachable and friendly, but "big" in having lots of things to do.

  • This is probably the best explanation of this phrase. Looks like you right that this phrase refers not only to the physical size but to something much more. Feb 25, 2011 at 18:11

My take on the titles you mention is that "little" refers to physical size, and "big" refers to aspiration or scope. So "little big magazine" would be a small sized magazine aspiring to cover a great deal of subject matter.


"Little big" isn't really a standard phrase in English, so it's subject to interpretation. It's meant to be more evocative than precise.

In the above cases you could take it to mean something that is suitable for both little and big people (children and adults), or something that is big in scope but miniature in size.

  • 2
    I hear it all the time. "You're a little big for those pants, aren't you?"
    – oosterwal
    Feb 25, 2011 at 1:39
  • 5
    @oosterwal - that is shorthand for "You're a little too big for those pants?" which isn't exactly the same usage as the OP seems to be referring to.
    – Dusty
    Feb 25, 2011 at 1:42

Probably best known is the Battle of Little Big Horn of 1876 (other spacing and names are also used). It is named for the nearby Little Big Horn River, a tributary of the Big Horn River, in turn a tributary of the Yellowstone River, and then the Missouri River and Mississippi River.

The apparent oxymoron makes it easy to remember, but in fact little does not apply to big but to Big Horn River; similarly big does not apply to Horn River, but river applies to big horn. I would not be surprised is your examples copied this.

  • 4
    It's actually Little Bighorn; a Bighorn is a type of North American sheep. As a result, it's not an oxymoron at all.
    – Dancrumb
    Feb 25, 2011 at 4:07
  • 1
    @Dancrumb: indeed - hence "apparent oxymoron". Many people, like me, hear it before we see it
    – Henry
    Feb 25, 2011 at 8:58
  • @Dancrumb; although technically not the same, the arguments still seem valid in my mind. +1
    – falstro
    Feb 25, 2011 at 10:09

Of course it may reference the seminal book Little Big - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Big-P-S-John-Crowley/dp/0061120057/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1322095005&sr=8-3

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