adjective, few·er, few·est.
Origin of few
Related Words for few and far betweenrare, meager, uncommon, occasional, sparse, sporadic, odd, absent, vacant, negative, tenuous, limited, unusual, singular, extraordinary, strange, unlikely, subtle, scarce, unique
- a small number of; hardly anyfew men are so cruel
- (as pronoun; functioning as plural)many are called but few are chosen
- a small number ofa few drinks
- (as pronoun; functioning as plural)a few of you
- at great intervals; widely spaced
- not abundant; scarce
Word Origin for few
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]
few and far between
At wide intervals, scarce, as in Supporters of the amendment are few and far between. This expression originally was used very literally for physical objects such as houses appearing at widely separated intervals. Today it is also used more loosely. [Mid-1600s]
In addition to the idioms beginning with few
- few and far between
- few bricks shy of a load
- few words
- a few
- bricks shy of a load, (a few)
- of few words
- precious few
- quite a bit (few)