Also: What a Small World
Meaning of Idiom ‘It’s a Small World’
This idiom’s abstract meaning is expressed better in its usage, but it essentially means that although the world seems so vast, we still meet the same people in the most unexpected places. Usually, “it’s a small world” is used to express surprise at seeing someone we know or discovering a personal connection with someone in a far away or unexpected place. It’s a small world basically means that the world is much smaller than it seems. ,
Here are two scenarios in which the idiom might be used.
Tom, from a small town in Iowa, decides to go on a vacation to the ice hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, quite a remote and unusual place to go for a getaway! When he arrives at the hotel, he is surprised and delighted to see none other than Mr. Bently, his old high-school English teacher, who also decided to visit the hotel at the same time. “It’s a small world!” said Tom.
Sara had lived in New York for two years. Early on, she became good friends with her work mate, Liz. The two quickly became inseparable, spending much of their time away from work with each other. Yet, they were so busy having fun they didn’t realize how much they had in common. One day, Liz begins to describe the street she grew up on to Sara. Sara quickly begins to realize that this street seems eerily familiar. “Wait, where are you from, Liz?” It turns out that Liz is not only from the same town as Sara, they both grew up on the same street, a couple of blocks from each other! Yet, they never even met until they both moved to New York. “What a small world!” they both say in unison.
Of course, these scenarios are quite extreme. The idiom is also used in more ordinary contexts.
Examples of Use
“You’ll never guess who I saw at Samantha’s ballet class today. Coach Johnson my old P.E. teacher. It’s really a small world.”
“I never expected to see you here. I thought you lived in another state now. What a small world.”
Used since around 1900.
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it’s a small world
Meaning | Synonyms
This phrase is an old one and the origin is not known. It has been used for centuries in Spanish speaking countries. The Spanish form is “El mundo es un pequeno”.
chip on shoulder ❯❮ between a rock and a hard place
Familiar people or things, or connections to those people or things, are often encountered in the most unexpected or far-reaching places (as if the world were much smaller). It turned out that the guy I met in Japan was traveling to upstate New York, just around the corner from my cousins, at the same time that I'd be there later in the summer. Boy, it's a small world. I found a copy of my novel at a used bookstore in Paris. It's a small world, isn't it? Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Familiar people or things, or connections to those people or things, are often encountered in the most unexpected or far-reaching places (as if the world were much smaller). It turned out that the guy I met in Japan was traveling to upstate New York, just around the corner from my cousins, at the same time that I'd be there later in the summer. Boy, it's a small world. I found a copy of my novel at a used bookstore in Paris. It's a small world, isn't it?
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
One encounters the same people, events or situations in unexpected places. For example, I never thought I'd run into Samantha at a ball game-it's a small world. [c. 1900]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
You say it's a small world or small world to express your surprise when you unexpectedly meet someone you know in an unusual place, or when you are talking to someone and are surprised to discover that you both know the same person. Thirty years after leaving Oxford, I bumped into him again in the Isle of Wight where he was Deputy County Surveyor. It is indeed a small world. I had no idea you knew the Proberts. Well, well, it's a small world.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
One encounters familiar people or events in unexpected places. As might be expected, this expression originated only when widespread travel and the transportation facilities to make it possible became commonplace. “Not such a large world after all,” wrote G. A. Sala in 1886 upon unexpectedly meeting someone in San Francisco after an interval of thirty-one years (America Revisited). By 1906 George Ade wrote (In Pastures New), “‘It’s a small world.’ This is one of the most overworked phrases of the globe-trotter . . . most frequently by those who follow the beaten paths.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English(it’s a) small world(it’s a) small worldespecially spoken used to express surprise when you unexpectedly meet someone you know or find out that someone has an unexpected connection to you Did you know David went to school with my brother? It’s a small world, isn’t it? → smallExamples from the Corpus(it’s a) small world• "I graduated from St. John's." "Really? So did my brother. Small world."