What is the comparative and superlative for little?

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  • 4
    It depends. Are you speaking of an amount (little money), or a size (little girl)? – Jolenealaska Jul 8 '14 at 4:51
  • If 'little' is about number (like amount of money) then it goes: little, less, least. If about size, there are two options, more formal is that you switch to 'small': little, smaller, smallest. Informally it is: little, littler, littlest. 'More little'' and 'most little' are formal and old fashioned to me. I'd make an answer out of this but ngrams is difficult to navigate for this ('littler' is a common surname). – Mitch Jul 8 '14 at 13:03

I had considered this idea as well.

However less and least refer to quantity rather than size.

Superlative - The littlest

Comparative - Littler than (used very infrequently. It would be more appropriate to choose a variant of the word 'little' based on its use)

  • Smaller and bigger are more commonly seen. More little (or worse, littler) just doesn't quite work. – Jolenealaska Jul 8 '14 at 5:01
  • Yes, I agree with you. They are much more natural. Please disregard. It's actually an interesting question. – Pro ingles Jul 8 '14 at 5:05
  • 1
    Littler and littlest are certainly far less common than you'd expect given how frequent little is, though I wouldn't go so far as to call them grammatically incorrect. Smaller and smallest are good substitutes in this sense. – snailboat Jul 8 '14 at 9:09

Yes, as @Jonenealaska says, if it is money then less and least apply. In the case of 'girl' littler and littlest, whilst grammatically correct are seldom used. Small is considered more polite. But if you were talking about crabs you were catching in a net off the pier then I don't see much wrong with littler and littlest.

  • WS, I'm not sure I agree that (for humans) little is less polite -- it's pretty normal to say "she's the littlest girl" or maybe "she's even littler!" You're right that it's "a bit impolite" but I suggest, it's exactly as impolite as "she's the smallest girl." (Normally, particularly in the US, this would only be said with layers and layers of euphemism... "well considering height measures we'd say that Juliette has the most minimal value on that ..." sort of thing.) Indeed wouldn't you say that "little" is more "cute" than "small"? – Fattie Jul 8 '14 at 8:35

I believe that the comparative and superlative for the word 'little' are: 'less' and 'least' respectively. If we want to compare inanimate things like dolls, can we say something like:

"My barbie doll is the littlest of all my dolls"


" My barbie doll is the littler of the two dolls".


  • Using "of the two" in a sentence with a comparative is certainly incorrect - it is tautology. – Chenmunka Oct 30 '15 at 13:30
  • Less and least don't specify size the way littler (or smaller) and littlest (or smallest) do. – Nathaniel Oct 30 '15 at 14:10

I disagree with most of these answers. "Little" is an absolute - like the word "unique". It cannot be qualified. "Littlest" is a word rather like the phrase "curiouser and curiouser", in that it is a sort of verbal joke. I have never heard littler. As a test try saying "She is more little (littler) than her sister." It sounds ridiculous. One has to use words like "small" in this context.

  • Small and little mean the exact same thing in this context. Little is not semantically unable to express degrees, the regular comparative and superlative forms are just not used. The comparison with unique is utterly flawed. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 8 '14 at 12:15

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