Dwarf vs. Midget


A dwarf is an extremely short adult who is less than 58 inches tall. The word midget is considered derogatory and offensive. Both words describe a short person, but refer to different physical characteristics and genetic conditions.

"Midget" refers to a person who is very short, but normally proportioned. The term midget is now rarely used and is considered offensive. But its usage was very common until the end of the twentieth century. It has given way to "short person" or "little person".

"Dwarf" refers to a person with one of several varieties of a specific genetic condition called dwarfism. A dwarf has disproportion of body parts. This is generally caused by a genetic or nutritional disability. Any adult human below the height of 4'10" (147 cm) is considered a dwarf. With reference to legends or folklore, a dwarf is considered a legendary creature resembling a tiny old man, who lives in the depths of the earth and guards buried treasure.

Comparison chart

Edit this comparison chart



About A medical condition caused by a genetic mutation at the 4th chromosome. Over 200 types of mutations exist. The term midget is different from dwarf based on body proportions. A person with dwarfism has disproportionately short limbs. The term midget was used to describe persons of small size but with normal proportions when compared to average people.
Offensive The word dwarf is not considered offensive. The word "midget" is considered offensive for either description. It is considered most offensive when misused to describe those with dwarfism. The term "little person" may be less offensive.
Affects Humans, animals and plants Humans only
Causes Genetic disorder Genetic disorder
Height Less than 147 cm (4' 10") Less than 147 cm (4' 10")
Physical conditions Extremely short height, malformed bones, nerve compression, joint disease, and disoriented growth of some organs Extremely short people

Contents: Dwarf vs Midget

edit Differences in origin of word

Midget, comes from the word midge "small fly" + -et, so that a midget is etymologically a "very small fly". The first reference to the word is found in 1848 in Canada with the meaning "sand fly". In Old English it was "mycg", and it goes back to an Indo-European root, *mu-, which also gave the word mosquito and, by a circuitous route, musket.

The word Dwarf is of Germanic ancestry, coming ultimately from the proto-Germanic root *dhwergwhos meaning "tiny". In Old English it was "dweorg" and meant "person of abnormally small stature".

edit Physical Condition comparison

When the words were coined, "midget" referred to a person who is small in height but doesn't have disproportionate limbs or other body parts. On the other hand, "dwarf" referred to a person who is small and has disproportionate body parts. A midget was small but proportionate while a dwarf's growth was a disability.

However, since the word "midget" is now considered derogatory and offensive, "dwarf" or "little person" describes any adult human less than 147 cms tall.

edit Whom does it affect?

Dwarfism is known to affect humans, animals and plants. Midget is a term used for humans only. In humans, a child for whom one or both parents is affected by dwarfism has a chance of inheriting the condition. Both these conditions affect men and women. It is also caused by hormonal or nutritional deficiency.

edit Differences in associated problems

While there are many problems associated with Dwarfism, midgets are not plagued by these problems. Midgets are just normal people whose height is stunted. In the case of dwarfs, the physical conditions affecting them are: malformed bones, nerve compression, joint disease, and disoriented growth of some organs.

Both midgets and dwarfs have to suffer the psychological or social problems associated with their condition. Social prejudice against their extreme height may reduce their social confidence and opportunites. Sometimes they're mocked and may suffer from low self esteem. Sometimes extreme shortness (height of less than 3 feet) may interfere with their day to day chores.

edit Differences in treatment

Since the conditions are related to genetic problems, there are few treatments available. Dress enhancements such as shoe lifts etc are some of the few ways to change the aesthetics of little people. Growth hormones are rarely used to treat these conditions as the benefits are very small. The most effective means of increasing adult height by several inches is limb-lengthening surgery, though availability is limited and cost is high in terms of dollars, discomfort, and interruption of life.

edit References

Share this comparison:

If you read this far, you should follow us:

"Dwarf vs Midget." Diffen.com. Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 21 May 2015. < >

Related Comparisons Follow Diffen
Top 5 Comparisons
Make Diffen Smarter.

Log in to edit comparisons or create new comparisons in your area of expertise!

Sign up »

Comments: Dwarf vs Midget

Anonymous comments (14)

November 11, 2013, 2:38pm

I am small 4' 10.5", I do not mind being called a midget. I know now I am not a dwarf and if I was called a dwarf, I would find this offensive because there is a difference. Alot of people are midgets but their are few dwarfs. I do like seeing people shorter than me. Anyway my friends have called me c-4 because dynamite just doesn't pack a large enough punch.

— 216.✗.✗.136

January 26, 2011, 12:33am

I am small 4 '10.5', I do not mind being called a midget. I know now I am not a dwarf and if I was called a dwarf, I would find this offensive because there is a difference. Alot of people are midgets but their are few dwarfs. I do like seeing people shorter than me. Anyway we are cute and small.

— 67.✗.✗.25

October 26, 2013, 11:10am

I am a 42 year old woman who stands 4'8". I am married to a man who is 6'3", I have 3 children who all tower over me and a 6 year old granddaughter who stands up to my shoulders already. I am what you consider proportionate. My friends have called me c-4 because dynamite just doesn't pack a large enough punch. When people ask me about being so short I just laugh and tell them God had to make me small to control the size of my extremely large personality. I have been a model, ran cross country, played baseball, was a scuba diver on a research boat, was an actress, a bartender, a restaurant manager, and have become a machinist in the last year. I love my life and to be honest my only complaint is I wish I could wear a size 5/6 shoe. Do you know how hard it is to find sexy shoes in the kid's size 2 section??? -_-

— 50.✗.✗.230

May 29, 2012, 3:28pm

To whomever wrote "I am actually a tall person shrunk down," I think I'm going to use that one.... Any way, I also am a bit on the short side; I'm usually up to the shoulders or the mid-chest area of those surrounding me. I stand on my counter to reach the cupboards in my kitchen because the stools are too small for my little legs and arms to allow me to reach high enough. I'm often called a midget, or my nickname - Short Shit - and I am not at all offended in any way. I dont see why people are making such a huge fuss about it. Honestly, grow up. And think about it - being small isnt always a bad thing. It often makes it easier to escape when you need to. And hell, if people didnt pick on me for being short every once in a while, I'd think they didnt like me. But obviously they like me enough to notice my shortness and take the time to think about it long enough to pick on me for it. Not to mention, you hardly ever have to duck under things. And if you're a small girl who likes a tall/average height guy, it gives you an excuse to talk to him (Hey, I cant reach that up there, could you get it for me?). Also, havent you ever heard the saying "it's the little ones you gotta look out for?" In other words, we might be little, but we aint weak. Seriously poeple, get over it. It's a name. It's not the end of the world. And if you're mad cause it's "incorrect" then point it out to them that they're wrong and be done with it. Didn't your Mamma ever tell you when you were a kid to ignore the bullies in school? Why try to run from it or make a huge deal out of it - I embrace it. And the way I like to put it sometimes, is that I am not short, everyone else is just tall :)

— 168.✗.✗.210

February 27, 2012, 4:11pm

I am a very short individual and people used to call me "midget" mostly when I was in school. Occasionally, they would use the word "dwarf" but midget sounded funnier to them. I am not at all offended. It has never bothered me that I am small, nor has it impacted my quality of life unless you consider the inability to buy fashionable clothes a tragedy. My short stature is not a direct result of genetics but early malnutrition and illness. I think people need to grow a sense of humour and learn to be less offended by words. For me it was always the speakers intent that determined whether I should be offended.

— 174.✗.✗.246

January 4, 2012, 6:33pm

I come from a family of small people, but there is no dwarfism is my family. We even call ourselves midgits and never blinked an eye about it being offense. None of us have health issues and we are all 100% in proportion. Even our heads are teenie tiny. I can't wear eye glasses or hats unless they come from the children's department. I would be offended if someone called me a dwarf. I'm not. I'm actually a tall person shrunk down. ;)

— 98.✗.✗.136

September 1, 2009, 4:31pm

Although the terms might be offensive to some group or individuals, the terms are an historical description that can be useful in differentiating the two. For example, I gave a compare and contrast assignment to my 7th grade class. One student chose dwarf/midget. Pituitary or disease induced dwarfism would have been lost as was the lesson in compassion and understanding that resulted for the whole class. I think the terms used helped my students become much more tolerant individuals.

— 204.✗.✗.65

August 3, 2009, 6:59am

Guess some of us are politically incorrect. My Mum was 4'8" and happily referred to herself as a midget. She was clear to point out that she was not a dwarf - which is genetically passed on. She was just little. I don't think anyone uses 'midget' as a professional diagnosis.

— 58.✗.✗.33

June 7, 2014, 9:01am

I stand 5foot 6 inches, I have the upper torso of someone 6’ 3” and the legs of someone 4’10”. this leaves me to tall to be classified a “Dwarf” and to disproportional to be classified as “Midget” that leaves me with just being “SHORT.” Short can be a derogatory term too, if you let it. Words are just words and other people don’t define who you are, “YOU” define who you are. I constantly have people tell me my legs are too short and after I explain to them, legs are designed to reach from your butt to the ground and mine do that, they never mention it again. I do not understand why so many people obsess on the thought “ I wish I were normal.“ Personally I never want to be “NORMAL.” I refuse to lower my standards that far down. So called normal people are scary and I don’t care to associate with them.

— 68.✗.✗.64

May 29, 2014, 2:03am

I'm 4'11, but proportionate, I don't mind the midget word, because it's not a wprd used in hate, but in ignorance! Be strong all my little people! :)

— 172.✗.✗.76

December 21, 2013, 4:00pm

I always tell my beautiful niece , "The best gifts come in small packages". The love she gets and gives really makes the name game so irrelevant!

— 166.✗.✗.151

September 25, 2013, 3:55pm

By this definition, Snooki, at 4 ft 9 in (145 cm), is a dwarf/midget, but can you honestly say that either of those terms, or even "short/little person", comes to mind when you see her on TV (she's currently on Dancing With The Stars)?

As many of the other folks wrote, a lot of this is really in the context or how you see or carry yourself...obsessing over these kinds of technical labels can actually be extremely dangerous to being successful in the real world of everyday life.

— 99.✗.✗.51

December 18, 2011, 1:24am

There is indeed a difference between people of very short stature due to genetic medical problems, and healthy people exhibiting very short stature. Terms need to be used to differentiate these factors, medically. Comparing these terms to racial slurs is simply nonproductive.

— 75.✗.✗.137

July 19, 2010, 12:18am

This article is wrong on the most part. I my self is a little person and Midgets aren't a group of their own. It's a name that the average sized person gave us. It comes from PT And Barnum Circus where dwarfs were put on display as " Freak Shows" It actually means According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term midget comes from midge, a sand fly, and the diminutive suffix -et. To me I hate the word Midget and have told my friends that, I have never heard them call anybody that since. This article offended me a bit.

— 209.✗.✗.98


Up next

Handicapped vs. Disabled