Small Potatoes – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Small potatoes mean something insignificant or trivial, especially in comparison to bigger concerns at hand. If you’ve ever lost your mind over mismatched socks when your entire outfit is on point, you’re probably sweating the small potatoes.

This is what we call an idiom, a phrase that holds no literal meaning, just a metaphorical expression used to elevate communication. But idioms only make sense when used correctly and in the right context.

This article overviews the details of the meaning, origin, and proper usage with sentence examples so you learn how to use small potatoes the right way. Keep reading!

The Small Potatoes Meaning Explained

Small Potatoes – Idiom Meaning and Origin

When something is referred to as small potatoes, it’s usually not the main dish. Instead, it’s a minor or lesser concern that might be overshadowed by larger, more pressing matters. Think of the teeny potatoes in a hearty stew–tasty, but not the main attraction.

We say small potatoes as a simpler, more fun way to state the fact that something isn’t worth caring about or fussing over. It’s like when I switched printers for my books. The process of learning their system and using their templates was a nightmare, but it was worth it in the end because my books are gorgeous.

However, once we finally ironed out all the issues, there was a slight color difference not noticeable to anyone else but me. I could have complained and had it corrected, but after everything I’d done to get the book perfect, the dark teal versus the smidge-darker teal was just small potatoes.

Small Potatoes Origin and Etymology

Small Potatoes Ngram
Small potatoes usage trend.

Would you believe that the idiom “small potatoes” is as American as apple pie (or, should we say, potato salad)? The term small potatoes originated in the U.S. in the 18th century. Potatoes, a staple in many diets, were (and still are) a measure of worth.

But when harvesting potatoes, the small ones would usually get tossed aside or used for things like potato salad. So, small potatoes came to describe things of lesser importance compared to the big, valuable russet spuds.

Synonyms for the Small Potatoes Idiom

Here are a bunch of alternatives to the phrase “small potatoes” that you can use.

  • Minor issue
  • Trivial matter
  • Drop in the bucket
  • Peanuts
  • No big deal
  • Mere trifle

Examples of Small Potatoes in a Sentence

Small Potatoes – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • While the typo is annoying, it’s small potatoes compared to the manuscript’s overall quality.
  • Marlene made a pfft sound. “Don’t bother complaining. The manager treats our concerns like small potatoes.”
  • Sure, the appetizers were nice, but they were small potatoes compared to the delicious main course.
  • She considered the first round of auditions to be small potatoes, aiming for the final stage.
  • The $5 sign-up fee? Oh, that’s small potatoes in the grand scheme of things and totally worth it for the membership.
  • Dave’s initial investment in the company was small potatoes, but now he’s a major shareholder.
  • The mistake was just small potatoes, and we fixed it immediately.
  • Compared to Meryl’s other achievements, this award was small potatoes for the accomplished actress.
  • These initial challenges are small potatoes; the real tests are yet to come.
  • The extra work hours this week are small potatoes and worth it for the vacation I have planned.

Potato, Potahtoe

Small potatoes is a delightful idiom that reminds us to keep perspective and not to sweat the tiny tubers. Use it whenever you want to describe something that simply doesn’t matter. Are you looking for more tasty idioms to use? Because we have plenty on our site to check out!