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Midget vs. Petite — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 8, 2024
Midget refers to a very small person, often considered outdated and offensive, while petite describes a woman of small and slender build.
Midget vs. Petite — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Midget and Petite


Key Differences

Midget, historically used to describe persons of very short stature, particularly those with proportional body parts, is now largely seen as derogatory. The term was once common in medical diagnoses and entertainment contexts but has since fallen out of favor due to its negative connotations. Petite, on the other hand, refers specifically to a body type among women who are short and have a slender build. It does not carry the same medical or derogatory implications as "midget." The term is commonly used in the fashion industry to describe a category of clothing sizes designed to fit women who are 5'4" (162 cm) and under.
Today, it is more appropriate to refer to individuals with such characteristics of midget as having dwarfism or being of short stature, depending on the context. Petite sizing focuses on the proportions of the body, offering a better fit for those with smaller frames.
While "midget" is associated with height and sometimes proportionate body features due to genetic or medical conditions, "petite" focuses solely on the height and build of a person, without implying any medical condition. It's crucial to use language that respects individuals' dignity, hence the preference for terms like "short stature" over "midget."
Choosing the right term depends on the context and the intent behind its use. For discussing body types in fashion or describing someone's build without intending to offend, "petite" is appropriate. For medical conditions related to height, terms like "short stature" or specifics of the condition are preferable to "midget."

Comparison Chart


An outdated term for a very small person, often with proportionate body parts.
A term describing a woman who is short and of a slender build.


Derogatory and offensive.
Neutral, often used in fashion.

Usage Context

Historically used in medical and entertainment contexts.
Fashion industry, body type description.


May imply a medical condition.
Focuses on height and build without implying a medical condition.

Preferred Term

Short stature or specific medical condition names.
Petite for describing body type.

Compare with Definitions


Once common in circus and entertainment settings.
Performers described as midgets in the past are now recognized respectfully by their names and talents.


Concerns physical stature without implying health conditions.
Petite models often showcase sizes designed for shorter women.


Recognized as disrespectful towards individuals with short stature.
Using midget to describe someone's height is inappropriate and offensive.


Used to categorize clothing sizes for shorter women.
She shops in the petite section for a better fit.


Formerly used in medical contexts to describe certain conditions.
Medical professionals now use specific diagnoses instead of terms like midget.


Describes women under 5'4" with a slim frame.
Petite clothing lines cater to women with smaller body proportions.


Previously used to describe very short individuals.
The term midget is now considered offensive and should be avoided.


Lacks the negative implications associated with "midget."
Being petite is often considered desirable in certain contexts.


Refers to short stature with body parts proportionate to each other.
Historically, midget was used to describe persons with proportional features but is no longer acceptable.


Specifically refers to women of short and slender stature.
Petite sizes are tailored for women who are 5'4 and under.


Midget (from midge, a sand fly) is a term for a person of unusually short stature that is considered by some to be pejorative. While not a medical term, it has been applied to persons of unusually short stature, often with dwarfism, a medical condition with a number of causes including achondroplasia, and particularly proportionate dwarfism.


(of a woman) attractively small and dainty
She was petite and vivacious


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


Short and slender
This rack of clothing is for petite women.


A small or miniature version of something.


Small in size or scope; tiny
“a bagel that is fairly petite by today's standards” (Ed Levine).


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


A clothing size for short, slender women.


Miniature; diminutive.


(especially of a woman) fairly short and of slim build.


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


(clothing) of small size.


(originally) A little sandfly.
Although tiny and just two-winged, midgets can bite you till you itch all over your unprotected skin.


Small, little; insignificant; petty.


(loosely) Any small swarming insect similar to the mosquito; a midge.


Small, little; of a woman or girl, of small size and trim figure.


A normally-proportioned person with small stature, usually defined as reaching an adult height less than 4'10".


A garment size for short or slender women


Any short person.


Very small;
Diminutive in stature
A lilliputian chest of drawers
Her petite figure
Tiny feet
The flyspeck nation of Bahrain moved toward democracy


(attributively) A small version of something; miniature.
The midget pony


A very diminutive person having normal proportions of the body parts; compare dwarf.


A person who is abnormally small


Very small;
Diminutive in stature
A lilliputian chest of drawers
Her petite figure
Tiny feet
The flyspeck nation of Bahrain moved toward democracy

Common Curiosities

What does "petite" mean in clothing sizes?

Petite in clothing sizes refers to garments designed for women 5'4" and under with proportions suited to a smaller frame.

Is it acceptable to use "midget" to describe someone's height?

No, "midget" is considered derogatory and offensive. It's better to use terms like "short stature" or refer to the individual's specific condition.

What's the difference between "petite" and "plus-size"?

Petite refers to women who are short and have a slender build, while plus-size refers to clothing and individuals in larger size ranges, regardless of height.

Can men be described as petite?

Typically, "petite" is used to describe women. Men of similar stature are usually described as "short" or by their specific height.

Why is "midget" considered offensive?

"Midget" is considered offensive because it has been used derogatorily and reduces individuals to a single characteristic, overlooking their dignity and humanity.

Do all stores offer petite sizes?

Not all stores carry petite sizes, but many do, especially those that cater to a broad range of body types.

What are some common misconceptions about being petite?

Common misconceptions include the idea that being petite is limiting in fashion or that petite individuals are always fragile.

How do I know if I should shop for petite sizes?

If you're a woman 5'4" or under and find regular sizes too long or poorly fitting in the torso, legs, or arms, petite sizes may offer a better fit.

How has the use of "midget" in entertainment changed?

The entertainment industry has largely moved away from using "midget" in favor of more respectful language and representation.

What's the appropriate way to refer to someone with dwarfism?

The most respectful approach is to use the term "dwarfism" or "short stature," or if known, the specific medical condition.

Can petite individuals have difficulty finding clothes that fit?

Yes, petite individuals often face challenges finding clothes that fit well, particularly in terms of length and proportion.

Is there a height cutoff for being considered petite?

While there's no strict cutoff, the fashion industry generally considers women 5'4" and under as petite.

Can "petite" apply to children's clothing?

"Petite" typically refers to adult women's clothing, while children's clothing uses age, height, and weight for sizing.

Is there a specific petite size chart?

Yes, many brands provide a petite size chart that adjusts for both the width and the length of garments to fit smaller frames better.

How should I address someone if I'm unsure about their preferred term?

If in doubt, it's respectful to ask the individual how they prefer to be addressed or simply use their name.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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