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Dwarf vs. Midget: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on June 1, 2024
Dwarf refers to a person with medical dwarfism characterized by short stature due to genetic or medical conditions, while midget is an offensive term historically used to describe a person of short stature without disproportion.

Key Differences

Dwarfism refers to various medical conditions that cause an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches or shorter, often with disproportionate body parts. This term is accepted and used medically and socially to describe individuals with such conditions. Midget is an outdated and now widely considered offensive term that was historically used to describe people of short stature but with proportionate body parts.
Dwarfism encompasses a range of conditions, including achondroplasia, which leads to shorter limbs and a larger head. The term "dwarf" is respectful and medically accurate. Conversely, "midget" has fallen out of favor and is replaced by "person of short stature" or simply "dwarf" when appropriate.
Understanding and respecting the preferred terminology is crucial in fostering a respectful and inclusive society. Using "dwarf" appropriately acknowledges the medical nature of the condition, while avoiding "midget" prevents perpetuating outdated and offensive language.

Comparison Chart


Medically and socially accepted term
Considered offensive


May or may not have proportional body parts
Historically implied proportional body parts

Contemporary Use

Utilized in medical and cultural contexts
Generally avoided in modern language


Can be related to genetic conditions
Historically used in exploitative entertainment contexts

Advocacy Groups

Accepted and used by various advocacy groups
Not used or endorsed by advocacy groups

Dwarf and Midget Definitions


A person having a condition of short stature due to genetic or medical reasons.
The doctor diagnosed the child with a form of dwarfism that affects bone growth.


A midget is often defined as an extremely short but normally proportioned person.
Despite his stature as a midget, he excelled in his basketball career through sheer skill and determination.


A mythological or fantastical being, often depicted as short and skilled in craftsmanship.
In the novel, the dwarf crafted exquisite jewelry that was renowned across the land.


Historically, "midget" referred to a person who is small in height but has proportional body parts.
The midget was often cast in films requiring characters of shorter stature during the early 20th century.


To cause to appear or feel small or insignificant in comparison.
The massive sculpture seemed to dwarf everything else in the room.


In the context of shows and entertainment, a midget was historically showcased for their short stature.
The circus promoted the midget as one of its star attractions, drawing large crowds.


A star of relatively small size and low luminosity.
The astronomer spent her career studying white dwarf stars.


The term "midget," considered outdated and offensive today, was once used to describe persons of short stature without proportional discrepancies.
Advocacy groups urge people to use “little person” instead of midget to promote respectful dialogue.


An entity significantly smaller than usual size or the standard size.
The dwarf planet Pluto orbits in the distant reaches of our solar system.


Midget was once a common term in medical contexts, referring to a diminutive individual with regular proportions.
The doctor, specializing in growth, studied the medical conditions affecting the midget, ensuring appropriate health management.


A person with a usually genetic disorder resulting in atypically short stature and often disproportionate limbs.


(Offensive) An extremely small person who is otherwise normally proportioned.


An atypically small animal or plant.


A small or miniature version of something.


A small creature resembling a human, often having magical powers, appearing in legends and fairy tales.


A class of small objects, as a class of very small sailboats or racing cars.


A dwarf star.


Miniature; diminutive.


Belonging to a type or class much smaller than what is considered standard
A midget automobile.


How has the perception of the term "midget" changed over time?

Historically used to describe small, proportionate people, "midget" is now broadly rejected due to negative and exploitative associations, evolving societal awareness, and respect for individuals' dignity.

Is "dwarf" considered a respectful term?

Yes, "dwarf" is generally considered a respectful term, especially in a medical context or referring to genetic conditions affecting height.

Why is "midget" considered an offensive term?

"Midget" is considered offensive due to its historical association with the exploitation and objectification of people with short stature, especially in entertainment contexts.

What is the origin of the term "midget"?

"Midget" historically was derived from "midge" (a small insect) and was used to describe small people, especially those who were proportionate.

Is dwarfism considered a disability?

Dwarfism can be considered a disability if it limits the individual's physical activities or life functions.

Is it acceptable to use "dwarf" in academic writing?

Yes, "dwarf" is acceptable when discussing relevant genetic conditions, celestial bodies, or in a literary analysis involving fantastical beings.

Is dwarfism exclusive to certain populations or regions?

No, dwarfism can occur in any population and geographical region.

Are all individuals with short stature classified as dwarfs medically?

Not necessarily. Medical classification considers multiple factors, including underlying causes and specific measurements.

Was "midget" ever a medically accepted term?

While once used in medical and scientific communities, "midget" is no longer accepted due to its derogatory connotations.

Can "dwarf" refer to objects and entities outside of discussing human stature?

Yes, "dwarf" can refer to anything significantly smaller than typical size, such as a dwarf star or dwarf planet.

Are there organizations related to dwarfism awareness and support?

Yes, organizations like Little People of America advocate for individuals with dwarfism.

Are there any alternatives to using "midget"?

Yes, simply using "person of short stature" or if relevant and medically accurate, "dwarf," is preferable.

Can "dwarf" refer to plants as well?

Yes, "dwarf" can describe a smaller-than-typical variant of a plant species.

Is there a difference between "dwarf" used in a medical context and in fantasy literature?

Yes, in literature, "dwarf" often refers to a mythical being with distinct characteristics, unrelated to medical conditions.

What is the key reason "midget" is now offensive and "dwarf" is not?

Historical exploitation and derogatory use have rendered "midget" offensive, while "dwarf" has been adopted and normalized, especially in medical contexts.

Are there medical treatments available for dwarfism?

Some forms of dwarfism can be managed with specific treatments, but it depends on the individual and type of condition.

How should I address an individual who has dwarfism?

Addressing them by name or "the individual" or "the person" is appropriate and respectful.

What are alternative phrases to "midget submarine"?

"Mini-submarine" or "compact submarine" are modern, acceptable alternatives.

Is it accurate to refer to a small animal as a "midget"?

While it may be understood, it's preferable to use descriptive terms like "miniature" for animals to avoid using outdated and offensive terminology.

Is there an International Dwarf Advocacy Organization?

Yes, there are several international organizations, such as Little People of the World Organization.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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