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few

[fyoo]
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adjective, few·er, few·est.
  1. not many but more than one: Few artists live luxuriously.
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noun
  1. (used with a plural verb) a small number or amount: Send me a few.
  2. the few, a special, limited number; the minority: That music appeals to the few.
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pronoun
  1. (used with a plural verb) a small number of persons or things: A dozen people volunteered, but few have shown up.
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Idioms
  1. few and far between, at widely separated intervals; infrequent: In Nevada the towns are few and far between.
  2. quite a few, a fairly large number; many: There were quite a few interesting things to do.
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Origin of few

before 900; Middle English fewe, Old English fēawe; cognate with Gothic fawai; akin to Latin paucus few, paulus little, pauper poor, Greek paûros little, few
Related formso·ver·few, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for few

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • They were both silent for a few moments; and Eudora's countenance was troubled.

    Philothea

    Lydia Maria Child

  • Here we see but a few of the last links, and those imperfectly.

    Philothea

    Lydia Maria Child

  • So small was it that to have gone a few feet to either side would have been to miss it.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • I shall be staying with Aunt Cornelia a few days after to-morrow.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Or, if I'd only got tied up in some way for a few weeks—something I could tide over.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson


British Dictionary definitions for few

few

determiner
    1. a small number of; hardly anyfew men are so cruel
    2. (as pronoun; functioning as plural)many are called but few are chosen
  1. (preceded by a)
    1. a small number ofa few drinks
    2. (as pronoun; functioning as plural)a few of you
  2. a good few informal several
  3. few and far between
    1. at great intervals; widely spaced
    2. not abundant; scarce
  4. have a few or have a few too many to consume several (or too many) alcoholic drinks
  5. not a few or quite a few informal several
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noun
  1. the few a small number of people considered as a classthe few who fell at Thermopylae Compare many (def. 4)
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Derived Formsfewness, noun

Word Origin

Old English fēawa; related to Old High German fao little, Old Norse fār little, silent

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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for few

adj.

Old English feawe (plural; contracted to fea) "few, seldom, even a little," from Proto-Germanic *faw-, from PIE root *pau- (1) "few, little" (cf. Latin paucus "few, little," paullus "little," parvus "little, small," pauper "poor;" Greek pauros "few, little," pais (genitive paidos) "child;" Latin puer "child, boy," pullus "young animal;" Oscan puklu "child;" Sanskrit potah "a young animal," putrah "son;" Old English fola "young horse;" Old Norse fylja "young female horse;" Old Church Slavonic puta "bird;" Lithuanian putytis "young animal, young bird"). Always plural in Old English.

Phrase few and far between attested from 1660s. Unusual ironic use in quite a few "many" (1883), earlier a good few (1828). The noun is late 12c., fewe, from the adjective.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. [Winston Churchill, 1940]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with few

few

In addition to the idioms beginning with few

also see:

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.