5 Terms To Describe Something That Is Small But Powerful

When something is small but powerful, it might help to know a few words we can use to describe it. Of course, there will always be words in English that will describe something, and this article will help you find the best and most appropriate ones.

Which Terms Can Describe Something That Is Small But Powerful?

There aren’t too many good options we can use to describe a small but powerful thing. However, you might want to try out one of the following to see how they work for you:

  • Potent
  • Concentrated
  • Good things come in small packages
  • Tough as old boots
  • Atomic
small but powerful

The preferred version is “potent.” It works well when talking about something that has a profound impact because of its power or might. Sometimes, “potency” doesn’t rely on size, but it helps, in this case, to talk about things you might not expect to be powerful.


Let’s start with the preferred option and work our way through. There are plenty of cases where “potent” is exactly the word that you’re looking for.

We can use “potent” to refer to things that are small but powerful. “Potency” is the measure of something that’s very powerful and effective, and we usually overlook its potential until it’s too late. This is the perfect analogy for talking about small things.

The definition of “potent,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “very powerful, forceful, or effective.”

Usually, we do not expect small things to be powerful. Therefore, when we see them having more power than we realize, we can talk about how “potent” they are.

It’s almost a way of showing our surprise with the thing being as powerful as it is. We don’t usually know how else to talk about it, so calling a small thing “potent” is a kind way of showing how impressed you are with its power.

You might see “potent” used in the following ways:

  • This computer drive is one of the most potent machines I’ve ever come across.
  • I’ve never seen something as potent as this child’s will to succeed.
  • The machine is so small, yet so potent. I can’t believe what it’s capable of.


“Concentrated” is another great one-word synonym you might find useful. Let’s see how it compares against “potent.”

“Concentrated” is a word we typically associate with small bursts of effort. Therefore, we can use it to talk about small things that are also powerful. A “concentrated” item or effort is something that asks for a lot of effort to be as powerful as it is.

The definition of “concentrated,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “using a lot of effort to succeed at one particular thing.”

The whole point of “concentrated” things is that there is a small burst of effort or energy which correlates to a large and successful movement of power. We can use this well to talk about any small things that show a great deal more power than we expected of them.

“Concentrated” things work in the following examples:

  • The concentrated power that’s given off from this mobile phone is unlike anything we’ve seen historically.
  • The concentrated efforts of the children in my classroom are more impressive than anything a group of adults could achieve.
  • Stop talking about the concentrated effects of the atoms in here, and start showing us what they can do.

Good things come in small packages

Now, let’s move away from words briefly. We might be able to use a few idioms, and idioms are a great way to show people how well you grasp a language (especially when used correctly).

“Good things come in small packages” means that we expect small things to do great things. Therefore, it’s a great idiom to use when we want to talk about how small things can also be powerful.

The definition of “good things come in small packages,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “said to emphasize that something does not need to be big in order to be good.”

The whole idea of this idiom is to take away from the surprise of smaller things being powerful. While words like “potent” come with a surprise, this idiom works to show that we were expecting the power to come from the small object.

We’re still impressed with the power that it outputs, but we also expected it to happen. It works well when we want to show that size really doesn’t matter, and we can always expect greatness from things regardless.

You can see this idiom in the following examples:

  • You do know that good things come in small packages. That’s why I’m the best girlfriend there is.
  • Good things come in small packages is the motto of this new mobile phone company that I heard about.
  • I’ve heard that good things come in small packages, which is why technology always strives to find the next best way to shrink things down.

Tough as old boots

Another great idiom we can use is “(as) tough as old boots.” It works similarly to the above idiom, though it doesn’t always have to refer to the size of something.

“Tough as old boots” works to show that something is powerful and tough. The implication of using the “old boots” simile is that something was designed to last and be strong, even if that thing isn’t substantial. Sometimes, it wasn’t even supposed to be powerful.

The definition of “(as) tough as old boots,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “very strong, and not easily made weaker.”

While “old boots” are clearly built to last, at the time of their invention, there wasn’t much indication telling us they would. That’s why it came as a nice surprise to see how something as small as “old boots” could last a very long time.

We now use that same toughness to talk about other small things that we might not be convinced about the power of. However, when we see that power firsthand, we are taken back by it.

We can also see it in action here:

  • He is as tough as old boots, which is saying a lot considering how weak he used to act.
  • This computer is as tough as old boots, and that’s why it’s one of the more powerful ones I’ve seen.
  • The power of this mobile phone shows that it’s tough as old boots, and I don’t think I’ll be getting rid of it any time soon.


Finally, we come to “atomic.” It’s not the best word on this list because it doesn’t always refer to the power of small things, but when used informally, there’s no reason we can’t describe something small but powerful as “atomic.”

“Atomic” means that something is small and mighty and generally comes from the word “atom.” We use it to talk about the energy that “atoms” create, although there are informal ways we can use it to describe other small things that exhibit a great deal of power.

The definition of “atomic,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “using the energy that is created when an atom is divided.”

As we’ve stated, this isn’t the most appropriate word. We wanted to include it in the list because it works well if you have no other options, but something higher up on this list is always better if you can work it in.

Here’s how we could see it work:

  • This computer is absolutely atomic! I wish I knew about it sooner because it can play all the games I want.
  • The atoms in this design are all much more atomic than I realized, which is insane because I didn’t expect this to get as powerful as it is.
  • This group of children is the most atomic bunch I’ve ever come across. I hope I can keep up!

What Are Examples Of Something That Is Small But Powerful?

Now that we’ve covered all the best synonyms (and a few idioms), it’s time to look at what it means to be small but powerful.

You might not be too sure which things we mean when we say it. Some of our examples above have given you a good indication of the things that are typically small but powerful, but here are a few more.

  • Microchips
  • Computer circuits
  • Mobile phones
  • Atoms

All of the above things are examples of things that can be small (tiny, even) and still be powerful. It’s no secret that electronics and computers are some of the most powerful things in the world, and they’re all made up of things that are almost invisible to the naked eye.

It also shows you how amazing some powerful things are when you look back through time. You might have seen that decades ago, computers were the size of an entire laboratory room, and now they can easily fit under your desk or on your lap.

Mobile phones had the same evolution. They used to be so big they couldn’t even be carried, but now we can slide them in and out of our pocket. They’re almost much more powerful than any of the older and larger versions.