Can I say that "a little boy" refers to the age whereas "a small boy" refers to the size? Or both can be interchangeable also in meaning?

For example:

He is a little boy.

Also I would like to know about:

He is a little friend.

  • Again, some examples are needed, as context is everything. But probably not age related specifically, other than the fact that boys grow larger as they age, so it is still about size.
    – user3169
    May 7 '18 at 5:19

A little boy

Refers to a young boy by age, has nothing to do with the actual size of the boy while

A small boy

Refers to the size of the boy and has nothing to do with the age of the child


Yes. A little boy means a young boy, and a small boy refers to his size.

See here (Cambridge dictionary):

little (adjective) young:

When you were little, you and your brother were always fighting.

My little brother/sister (= younger brother or sister) is seven years old.

He stayed home from work today because his little boy/girl (=young son or daughter) is sick.


No, it's not like the way you understand. Both talk about the size in this context.

However, I guess 'small' is more common in BrE (the smallest watch) whereas 'little' is what you find more in AmE (the littlest watch). But as I said, this is just a guess.

Another thing is little some times depict emotions as in 'a poor little girl'

I checked COCA where 'little boy' outnumbers 'small boy' in usage.

Out of the context of a boy, they aren't interchangeable always. You may have little experience in driving a car, but you cannot have small!

  • 1
    A little boy normally means a young boy. A small boy always means a boy who is small in size.
    – user3395
    May 7 '18 at 12:02
  • @Maulik, unfortunately your answer isn't correct. I found now that Cambridge says literally that little has a meaning of young. See here: dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/little May 8 '18 at 0:47

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