What does the term “small fry” mean and Where did it come from?

We use the term “small fry” humorously when speaking of young children.

Our ancestors for the past four hundred years have done the same, so the humor is somewhat antique.

But the joke is on us, because even in the remote day when we borrowed “fry” from the Norse, it meant the children of a man’s family.

That meaning died out, however, and the present humorous usage is rather a reference to the numerous progeny (or “fry”) of salmon. And even now it implies a considerable number of small children.