belittle (v.) 1781, "to make small," from BE- (Cf. be-) + LITTLE (Cf. 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.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • belittle — is, to the surprise of many, an Americanism, disapproved of by Fowler (1926) as an ‘undesirable alien’, at least in its meaning ‘decry, depreciate’. • (Never belittle anything that your patients earnestly believe Oxford Companion to US History,… …   Modern English usage

  • Belittle — Be*lit tle, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Belittled}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Belittling}.] To make little or less in a moral sense; to speak of in a depreciatory or contemptuous way. T. Jefferson. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • belittle — index cavil, condescend (patronize), contemn, decry, defame, demean (make lower), demote, denigrate …   Law dictionary

  • belittle — depreciate, disparage, derogate, detract, minimize, *decry Analogous words: underestimate, undervalue, underrate (see base words at ESTIMATE): diminish, reduce, lessen, *decrease Antonyms: aggrandize, magnify Contrasted words: *exalt: heighten,… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • belittle — [v] detract bad mouth, blister, criticize, cut down to size*, cut to the quick*, decry, deprecate, depreciate, deride, derogate, diminish, discount, discredit, disparage, dispraise, downgrade, downplay, dump on*, knock*, lower, minimize, pan,… …   New thesaurus

  • belittle — ► VERB ▪ dismiss as unimportant …   English terms dictionary

  • belittle — ☆ belittle [bē lit′ l, bilit′ l ] vt. belittled, belittling [coined ( c. 1780) by JEFFERSON Thomas] to make seem little, less important, etc.; speak slightingly of; depreciate SYN. DISPARAGE belittlement n. belittler n …   English World dictionary

  • belittle — [[t]bɪlɪ̱t(ə)l[/t]] belittles, belittling, belittled VERB If you belittle someone or something, you say or imply that they are unimportant or not very good. [V n] We mustn t belittle her outstanding achievement... [V n] It makes no sense to… …   English dictionary

  • belittle — UK [bɪˈlɪt(ə)l] / US verb [transitive] Word forms belittle : present tense I/you/we/they belittle he/she/it belittles present participle belittling past tense belittled past participle belittled to say or think that someone or something is… …   English dictionary

  • belittle — See belittle, disparage …   Dictionary of problem words and expressions

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