Vladislav Spector asked that question on our Let's Master English community.
Manoj gave the first great answer...
MANOJ pandeyApr 19, 2013
Then Gustavo offered a great link:
Gustavo A. Fernández BermejoApr 19, 2013
And then I offered a few more examples:
All good answers and references...
BUT! My little brother refers to my younger brother and my smaller brother refers to my physically smaller brother--he could be younger or older!
I had a little cake. (could be an entire cake that wasn't very large OR just a tiny portion of a cake!)
I had a small piece of cake. (a tiny portion)
I exercise a little every day.
I exercise a small amount every day. (the same as above)
A little cold is okay, but not -10 degrees!
I'll have a little coffee. (not very much)
I'll have a small amount of coffee. (SAME as above)
I'll have a small coffee. (specific size (Small, Medium, Large))
Your head is small. (physically "under-sized")
You have a little head. (Same)
Give me a little hug. (affectionate...not too long)
Give me a small hug. (not very affectionate, very short)
Can you think of more interesting examples?^^