The Dwarf VS Midget (Little Person) Difference 

When we hear the words 'dwarf' or 'midget' it is common to picture a person far below average height. And while both groups are qualified within the same height range, did you know that there are distinct differences between these two types of people that define the dwarf vs midget difference.

So, What's The Main Difference Between a Midget And a Dwarf?

A dwarf suffers from characteristics of dwarfism, such as a short trunk, broad rounded chest, disproportionate limbs, and hip deformities. A midget (little person/proportionate dwarf) has a proportionate body and body parts. Due to distinguishing characteristics, there are not as many associated issues with the growth of a midget, while the growth of a dwarf can link to disabilities.

dwarf vs midget

The Origins of The Word Dwarf and Midget

This is where the two terms have taken different sides of the coin. They both have similar roots, yet due to sociological influences, one has grown a stigma attached to it while the other remains dignified and socially acceptable.


Originating in mythology, dwarfs were seen as legendary figures referenced to Folklore, associated with wisdom, mining, and highly skilled forging. This has fed itself into video games such as World of Warcraft, where these skills are highly advantageous to the player.

The term "dwarf" is generally regarded as non-offensive within the community of vertically challenged people. This hasn't always been the case, as during the 1800s dwarfs were seen as "freaks" paraded for entertainment in "freak shows" and backstage shenanigans. 


In the later 1800s, the "freak show" era saw abnormally short people (yet still proportioned) paraded as front show entertainment to polite society, displayed for public amusement, and it was also common when people described those of a very short stature and distinct body type that the word "midget" would be used.

Back then a midget was deemed an acceptable and even favorable term, it has since become so overused to describe something smaller than usual that it has grown offensive in modern times, which is why it is considered highly unacceptable to use this word today. It has been 'equated with any other hate word someone might use to describe a minority group' (1)    

The word "midget" has since been replaced with the socially correct term "little person", or sometimes "proportionate dwarf". 

Midget VS Dwarf Characteristics 

Height Classification

If an adult male or female falls under the height of 4'10" (147.32 cm) then they can be regarded as a dwarf or midget, although In some cases they can be slightly taller than this. The average height of a dwarf is 4' (122 cm), and the typical range of height is from 2’8” (81.28 cm) to 4’8” (142.24 cm).


Dwarfism is a medical condition due to a genetic change of the 4th chromosome, and a person who has a set of characteristics that adhere to the term "dwarfism". It is a genetic disorder that can be determined through testing. 

There are more than 200 types of mutations. Yet, other factors include body proportions being disproportionate to the body frame. This includes short limbs and a larger than average forehead.

People with dwarfism commonly suffer from issues such as bone and joint problems, including pressure on the spinal cord and other issues such as nerve compression, or other hereditary and metabolic disorders which can affect the brain and body. 

Midget (Little Person)

Usually inherited from short genetics, similar to the term dwarf, the term midget represents an adult male or female who falls below 4'10" (147.32 cm), yet body parts remain balanced to the body frame - being proportionate. 

Things such as intelligence and sexual development remain within an average range. Other terms for a midget are 'little person' and 'proportionate dwarf'. Because of these characteristics, there are not as many issues linked to the growth of a midget.

The Most Common Type of Dwarfism

The type of dwarfism which is most commonly diagnosed is 'achondroplasia', (a form of short-limbed dwarfism), which is a genetic condition and it causes people to have disproportionately short limbs in comparison to the head and trunk.

What is The Average Lifespan of People With Dwarfism?

Generally, people who have dwarfism will live a lifespan similar to someone within a normal height range. They will also have normal intelligence and independence.

It is common for dwarfs to have surgeries to maximize mobility, but this does not usually affect lifespan. 


Although the dwarf VS midget difference is distinct, the two words often get confused with each other. This is understandable as being a midget is otherwise known as a proportional dwarf. Yet, each has characteristics clearly defining one from the other.

There are over 200 types of dwarfism, the most common being achondroplasia, which is a genetic condition that grants disproportionately shorter than normal limbs.

On the other side, unusually small people who have proportionate limbs, trunks, and heads can be defined as a 'midget', proportionate dwarf, or little person. 

While the term dwarf is socially acceptable, the word midget is regarded as derogatory and should not be used to describe somebody of abnormally small stature, as it has fallen out of favor within the community of little people due to its overuse for anything vastly smaller than average.

One thing though - to keep things respectful, when talking to or about a little person, just call them by their name - like any other person.