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Small vs. Short: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 8, 2023
"Small" refers to limited size or volume, while "short" refers to limited height or length.

Key Differences

"Small" describes limited dimensions overall, suggesting something is limited in size or volume relative to others of its kind. "Short," however, specifically refers to an object's height or length and is often used comparatively to denote something not tall or long.
When we say something is small, we speak to its scale or volume in three-dimensional space. To describe something as short often refers to one particular measurement, such as the distance from end to end or the stature of a person.
An item is considered small when it occupies less space in general, which can pertain to width, depth, or height. Alternatively, calling an object short tends to focus on its verticality, such as a short person or a short distance.
"Small" might relate to an object's significance, scope, or degree, such as a small problem. "Short" can also refer to time, indicating a brief duration, like a short meeting, emphasizing temporal length rather than spatial dimensions.
The application of "small" can range from physical size to abstract concepts, whereas "short" is often more concrete, pertaining to linear measurements or time, providing a more focused description.

Comparison Chart


General size in three dimensions.
Specific to height or length.


Can describe size, volume, importance, or degree.
Usually refers to length, height, or duration.


Relative to others in size or degree.
Often used to describe something in relation to a norm.


Broad, can refer to physical, conceptual, or quantity.
More focused, typically on physical or temporal aspects.


More varied usage in different contexts.
Usage often limited to specific contexts.

Small and Short Definitions


Insignificant or minor.
It's a small problem, easily fixed.


Lacking in quantity or duration.
Our vacation was too short.


Limited in size or amount.
She lives in a small apartment.


Abrupt or curt in manner or speech.
Her reply was short and sharp.


Young or younger.
He has a small brother.


Insufficient or less than required.
We're short two members.


Limited in degree or scope.
There's a small chance of rain tonight.


Of little length or height.
The table was too short for the room.


Not large as compared to others of the same type.
They drove a small car.


Quickly or soon.
He'll be back shortly.


Being below average in size
A small car.


Having little length; not long.


Being below average in quantity or extent
A small donation.
A small project.


Having little height; not tall.


Can "small" be subjective?

Yes, what is considered small can vary by personal judgment.

Is "short" used for stature only?

No, it can describe height, length, or time duration.

Can "small" describe time?

It's less common but can denote a small amount of time.

Does "short" always imply a negative connotation?

Not always, it can be neutral, depending on context.

Are "small" and "short" interchangeable?

No, they are used in different contexts and are not usually interchangeable.

Can a person be described as small?

Yes, referring to their overall physique.

Can "short" mean lacking or not enough?

Yes, like being short on supplies.

Can "short" be used for a brief summary?

Yes, such as "a short summary."

Can "small" be used affectionately?

Yes, often when referring to children or loved ones.

Can "short" describe a person's temperament?

Yes, as in having a short temper.

Can "small" mean humble or modest?

Yes, in terms of modest beginnings or living simply.

Can "short" refer to distance?

Yes, it can describe a short distance.

Can "small" refer to scale in art?

Yes, small can refer to the scale or size of artistic elements.

Can "small" have a positive connotation?

Yes, like in "small joys."

Is "short" ever used in financial contexts?

Yes, like "short selling" in stock markets.

Are there any phrases where "small" and "short" overlap?

Rarely, but in some contexts, they might, like "a short/small list."

Can "small" imply a lesser degree of importance?

Yes, it can suggest something is of minor significance.

Can "small" refer to a business or enterprise?

Yes, such as a small business.

Does "short" always mean not tall?

No, it can also mean not long or not lasting for a long time.

Can "short" apply to writing or speech?

Yes, it can describe concise writing or speech.
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
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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