Be-little



to regard or portray as less impressive or important than appearances indicate; depreciate; disparage.
Historical Examples

The Baroness, when she desired to be-little the doctor, always called her a female.
Is He Popenjoy? Anthony Trollope

In saying these things there is no desire to be-little the reputation of any man; the facts were as here stated.
The Bbur-nma in English Babur, Emperor of Hindustan

verb (transitive)
to consider or speak of (something) as less valuable or important than it really is; disparage
to cause to make small; dwarf
v.

1781, “to make small,” from be- + little (v.); first recorded in writings of Thomas Jefferson (and probably coined by him), who was roundly execrated for it in England:

Belittle! What an expression! It may be an elegant one in Virginia, and even perfectly intelligible; but for our part, all we can do is to guess at its meaning. For shame, Mr. Jefferson! [“European Magazine and London Review,” 1787, reporting on “Notes on the State of Virginia”; to guess was considered another barbarous Yankeeism.]

Jefferson used it to characterize Buffon’s view that American life was stunted by nature, which he was refuting. The figurative sense of “depreciate, scorn as worthless” (as the reviewers did to this word) is from 1797. Related: Belittled; belittling.

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