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The country has produced less than 1 percent of the global output. The country's share of the global output is (very) _____ .

Small, little, tiny, few, low are in my mind. But I don't know what is an idiomatic choice for that context.

I am looking for a word to say that the share in question is very little.

3

It looks like maybe you are concerned with avoiding words that aren't idiomatic rather than necessarily finding a less obvious word. If that's true, then, of the words you mentioned:

  • small: Perfectly idiomatic. In the example of being only 1% of global output, I would choose "very small."

  • little: Less idiomatic in this case. It is natural to say "very little of the global output goes to this country," but not as natural to say "the amount going to this country is very little." On the other hand, it is definitely not wrong, either.

  • tiny: A good choice. "Tiny" already means "very small", so if you say "very tiny", then maybe you mean .01% or something.

  • few: This means a different thing. "Few" applies to things you can count, not a share of something. "I have very few marbles."

  • low: "The country's share of the global output is very low" isn't really bad, but it's not as good as "small", "tiny", "minuscule", or some of the other suggestions. I think the reason is that people think of a share of something as a size or volume, and "low" is more natural for things that are specifically (or metaphorically) heights. It sounds more natural to talk about a low number than a low share.

This is all just my judgement as a native English speaker, and sometimes people differ. But you can't go wrong with "very small" or "tiny."

  • Best answer in my opinion. It answers OP's question without confusing the matter with more suggestions, and I agree with your analysis. – the-baby-is-you Oct 5 at 19:40
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One possibility, if you want to emphasize very strongly that the country's share is small, is minuscule:

The country's share of the global output is minuscule.

But to recommend a specific word, we would need to know much more about the point that you want to make about the country. You should look over the many available synonyms and choose the one that fits your meaning best.

An excellent reference book for choosing a word in a situation like this is Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms. I recommend it to native speakers, but I think it is especially useful for people who've learned English as a second language. The link above goes to a completely free version on-line, but it's worth it to have the book on your desk.

This book is not a thesaurus. Each article explains the differences in meaning between several synonyms, usually illustrated with quotations. For example, the page linked above explains the difference between small and little, something that most native speakers find very difficult. It explains why one says "a little sugar" but "a small quantity of sugar", along with many other differences, as well as contrasts with diminutive, minute, and others.

It's not perfect, though. The article on small and its synonyms doesn't include minuscule!

  • 1
    What if you don't want to emphasise that strongly, but still you want to say is small or very small? – Sasan Oct 4 at 11:54
  • The link goes to google books! Not free! – Sasan Oct 4 at 11:57
  • @Sasan Check the Dictionary of Synonyms. It explains many other synonyms for small, including what each applies to and the subtle differences between them. Isn't it free? That whole book is available for free when I click the link in the United States. – Ben Kovitz Oct 4 at 11:59
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    @Sasan You can buy a used copy of the book inexpensively here. – Ben Kovitz Oct 4 at 12:04
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In contrast with Ben Kovitz's answer, I personally don't see the need to acquire a printed reference when online resources are so plentiful and so thorough. In these cases I turn to thesaurus.com:

small: limited, meager, minuscule, modest, paltry, poor, slight, minute, humble, inconsequential, insufficient, piddling, pitiful, puny, trivial, negligible, trifling, etc.

You can also click on individual words to check their synonyms to help narrow down your search for the right word.

As with many synonyms of common words, most of these include some nuance, so it depends on what you want to say.

  • If you simply want to say that the output is numerically small, then yes, minuscule is fine, or limited, slight, minute, and possibly modest.

  • If you want to imply that it's small, to the point of insignificance, then poor, inconsequential, trivial, negligible, trifling, etc.

  • If you want to mock the amount, then meager, paltry, poor, piddling, pitiful, puny, insufficient, etc.

  • If you want to suggest the amount is small but possibly significant, then modest or humble.

Note this isn't a complete list. There are many other words that can be used in this context, for example:

The country's share of the global output is inappreciable, but is nevertheless of great significance to the country's numerous native artisans who rely on these exports for their livelihood.

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    I like negligible for the OP's sentence. I don't think poor, inconsequential, trivial, or trifling fit, but negligible was the first word that came to my mind. – J.R. Oct 5 at 2:33
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When you divide something up and single out one portion of it for consideration, that portion is called a "share".

When we compare shares we talk about their sizes. "Small" and "tiny" are sizes. "Few" is not a size, but a quantity. It tells how many, not how big, so it isn't appropriate for a description of a share. "Low" tells either height, or (in this case probably) number. Again how many. It isn't a size, so it won't idiomatically describe a share.

For size adjectives, you have a wide range to choose from, all the way from "enormous" to "microscopic", including "small", "tiny", and all the suggestions already given by others.

"Little" can also be a size, so it might be OK to use in a description of a share, but it sounds a little odd here for 2 reasons:

1) It is a little bit informal for this context where we are discussing global GDP outputs, and

2) "Little" can also be an adjective for a small quantity of an uncountable noun (E.g. "The desert region has very little water."; "Tom has very little money.")

In this context "little" might, at first hearing, sound incorrect. So I think native English users would probably avoid it in this context, and pick out some other adjective of size.

3

Insignificant

While this word doesn't fit every context, when comparing a slice of some larger total insignificant seems the most appropriate word. A more day-to-day example would be a vacation budget: if you spend $1,500 on your plane ticket, a $10 charge to pick your seat is insignificant. (Of course, it still manages to upset people!)

The term is used in a scientific capacity when comparing the order of magnitude of various quantities. For example, the mass of Mars is 6.39e23 Kg. The mass of Mars' two moons are 1.08e16 and 2.0e15 Kg. But when considering the mass of the Mars' system, you don't say it's 6.390000128 Kg - simply put, the mass of the moons is insignificant to the mass of the entire system.

Generally, humans like to think in two significant digits, which is why we reach the consensus that percent is how we measure things. Obviously some things need more precision, but two digits of significance is sufficient for most applications.

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Minimal

If the sense is that the percentage of global domestic product should be higher, then the current level of output might be considered inadequate. If so, the word "minimal" might fit. Minimal means:

  1. the least possible
  2. barely adequate
  3. very small or slight

Any of these connotations would probably be appropriate, but which sense is being communicated would require additional context.

  • Starnge are the downvotes. While not the best term it is an OK one here. +1 – Russell McMahon Oct 5 at 0:26
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The word I like best in this context is meager:

2 b : deficient in quality or quantity
// a meager diet

So, and to rephrase the sentence slightly in order to make it more natural with the word:

The country has a meager share of the global output.

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I also feel "immaterial" would be a word used in an economic context, i.e.

unimportant under the circumstances; irrelevant. [1]

Since you're saying it's effectively zero in the global context.

[1] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/immaterial

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