In this chapter we argue that realism offers important insights for the study of small states. Examining four iconic realist works, we aim to show that the popular view that small states defy realist expectations because these states can ‘punch above their weight’ is mistaken. Realists do not dismiss the ability of lesser powers to overachieve under certain systemic or state-specific circumstances. On the contrary, realists specify how small states can overachieve under certain systemic or state-specific circumstances such as intense competition among great powers, possession of assets of value to great powers, national morale and character, high-quality diplomacy, and a good reputation. Our argument proceeds in three steps. First, we map current debates in the study of small states in international affairs identifying central positions and lacunae in the literature. Second, we present a reading of iconic realist works showing how they help us to fill those lacunae. We conclude the chapter with a discussion of implications for the study of small states and international relations.