- to a smaller extent, amount, or degree: less exact.
- most certainly not (often preceded by much or still): He could barely pay for his own lodging, much less for that of his friend.
- in any way different; other: He is nothing less than a thief.
- smaller in size, amount, degree, etc.; not so large, great, or much: less money; less speed.
- lower in consideration, rank, or importance: no less a person than the manager.
- fewer: less than a dozen.
- a smaller amount or quantity: Hundreds of soldiers arrived, but less of them remained.
- something inferior or not as important: He was tortured for less.
- minus; without: a year less two days; six dollars less tax.
- less than, by far short of being; not in the least; hardly at all: The job is less than perfect.
Origin of less
SynonymsSee more synonyms for less on Thesaurus.com
Modern standard English practice does not reflect this distinction. When followed by than, less occurs at least as often as fewer in modifying plural nouns that are not units or groups, and the use of less in this construction is increasing in all varieties of English: less than eight million people; no less than 31 of the 50 states. When not followed by than, fewer is more frequent only in formal written English, and in this construction also the use of less is increasing: This year we have had less crimes, less accidents, and less fires than in any of the last five years.
- small in size; not big; not large; tiny: a little desk in the corner of the room.
- short in duration; not extensive; short; brief: a little while.
- small in number: a little group of scientists.
- small in amount or degree; not much: little hope.
- of a certain amount; appreciable (usually preceded by a): We're having a little difficulty.
- being such on a small scale: little farmers.
- younger or youngest: He's my little brother.
- not strong, forceful, or loud; weak: a little voice.
- small in consideration, importance, position, affluence, etc.: little discomforts; tax reductions to help the little fellow.
- mean, narrow, or illiberal: a little mind.
- endearingly small or considered as such: Bless your little heart!
- amusingly small or so considered: a funny little way of laughing.
- contemptibly small, petty, mean, etc., or so considered: filthy little political tricks.
- not at all (used before a verb): He little knows what awaits him.
- in only a small amount or degree; not much; slightly: a little-known work of art; little better than a previous effort.
- seldom; rarely; infrequently: We see each other very little.
- a small amount, quantity, or degree: They did little to make him comfortable. If you want some ice cream, there's a little in the refrigerator.
- a short distance: It's down the road a little.
- a short time: Stay here for a little.
- in little, on a small scale; in miniature: a replica in little of Independence Hall.
- little by little, by small degrees; gradually: The water level rose little by little.
- make little of,
- belittle: to make little of one's troubles.
- to understand or interpret only slightly: Scholars made little of the newly discovered text.
- not a little, to a great extent; very much; considerably: It tired me not a little to stand for three hours.
- think little of, to treat casually; regard as trivial: They think little of driving 50 miles to see a movie.
Origin of little
SynonymsSee more synonyms for little on Thesaurus.com
- an adjective suffix meaning “without” (childless; peerless), and in adjectives derived from verbs, indicating failure or inability to perform or be performed (resistless; tireless).
Origin of -less
Examples from the Web for less
Submission is less a novel of ideas than a political book, and of the most subversive kind.Houellebecq’s Incendiary Novel Imagines France With a Muslim President
January 9, 2015
Back in New York, the slow pace and inward focus of her yoga practice was less fulfilling.How Taryn Toomey’s ‘The Class’ Became New York’s Latest Fitness Craze
January 9, 2015
For many years afterward it was a never-ending topic of conversation, and is more or less talked of even to this day.New York’s Most Tragic Ghost Loves Minimalist Swedish Fashion
January 8, 2015
No one wants to align with less freedom at a time like this.Politicians Only Love Journalists When They're Dead
January 8, 2015
The pulps brought new readers to serious fiction, making it less intimidating with alluring art and low prices.How Pulp Fiction Saved Literature
January 8, 2015
"But in a maiden it would be less seemly," answered Philothea.
On this day, however, Philothea's mind was less serene than usual.
Politics, for example, would be less entertaining without it.
At any rate, she has less freedom and more obligations under her contract.
And of course you can't ever be no Shepler 'less you take your share of chances.
- the comparative of little (def. 1) less sugar; less spirit than before
- (as pronoun; functioning as sing or plural)she has less than she needs; the less you eat, the less you want
- (usually preceded by no) lower in rank or importanceno less a man than the president; St James the Less
- no less informal used to indicate surprise or admiration, often sarcastic, at the preceding statementshe says she's been to Italy, no less
- less of to a smaller extent or degreewe see less of John these days; less of a success than I'd hoped
- the comparative of little (sense 1)she walks less than she should; less quickly; less beautiful
- much less or still less used to reinforce a negativewe don't like it, still less enjoy it
- think less of to have a lower opinion of
- subtracting; minusthree weeks less a day
- without; lackingspeechless
- not able to (do something) or not able to be (done, performed, etc)countless
- (often preceded by a)
- a small quantity, extent, or duration ofthe little hope there is left; very little milk
- (as pronoun)save a little for me
- not muchlittle damage was done
- make little of See make of (def. 3)
- not a little
- a lot
- quite a little a considerable amount
- think little of to have a low opinion of
- of small or less than average size
- younga little boy; our little ones
- endearingly familiar; dearmy husband's little ways
- contemptible, mean, or disagreeableyour filthy little mind
- (of a region or district) resembling another country or town in miniaturelittle Venice
- little game a person's secret intention or businessso that's his little game!
- no little considerable
- (usually preceded by a) in a small amount; to a small extent or degree; not a lotto laugh a little
- (used preceding a verb) not at all, or hardlyhe little realized his fate
- not much or oftenwe go there very little now
- little by little by small degrees
Word Origin and History for less
Old English læs (adv.), læssa (adj.), comparative of læs "small;" from Proto-Germanic *lais-izo "smaller" (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian les "less;" Middle Dutch lise "soft, gentle," German leise "soft"), from PIE root *leis- "small" (cf. Lithuanian liesas "thin"). Formerly also "younger," as a translation of Latin minor, a sense now obsolete except in James the Less. Used as a comparative of little, but not related to it. The noun is Old English læsse.
Old English lytel "not large, not much; short in distance or time; unimportant," also used in late Old English as a noun, "small piece; a short time," from West Germanic *lutilla- (cf. Old Saxon luttil, Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, German lützel, Gothic leitils "little"), perhaps originally a diminutive of the root of Old English lyt "little, few," from PIE *leud- "small." "Often synonymous with small, but capable of emotional implications which small is not" [OED].
Phrase the little woman "wife" attested from 1795. Little people "the faeries" is from 1726; as "children," it is attested from 1752; as "ordinary people" (opposed to the great), it is attested from 1827. Little Neck clams (1884) are so called for Little Neck, Long Island, a "neck" of land on the island's North Shore. Little by little is from late 15c. (litylle be litille). Little green men "space aliens" is from 1950. Little black dress is from 1939.
At the beginning of summer, smart women who stay in town like to wear sheer "little black dresses." Because most "little black dresses" look alike, retailers struggle each year to find something which will make them seem new. ["Life," June 13, 1939]
Little Orphan Annie originally was (as Little Orphant Annie) the character in James Whitcomb Riley's 1885 poem, originally titled "Elf Child." The U.S. newspaper comic strip created by Harold Gray (1894-1968) debuted in 1924 in the New York "Daily News."
LITTLE Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
[Riley, "Elf Child"]
OE lytlian, from root of little (adj.).
word-forming element meaning "lacking, cannot be, does not," from Old English -leas, from leas "free (from), devoid (of), false, feigned," from Proto-Germanic *lausaz (cf. Dutch -loos, German -los "-less," Old Norse lauss "loose, free, vacant, dissolute," Middle Dutch los, German los "loose, free," Gothic laus "empty, vain"). Related to loose and lease.
Idioms and Phrases with less
In addition to the idiom beginning with less
- less than
- couldn't care less
- in (less than) no time
- more or less
- much less
In addition to the idioms beginning with little
- little bird told one, a
- little by little
- little frog in a big pond
- little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a
- little pitchers have big ears
- a little
- every little bit helps
- in one's own (little) world
- make little of
- precious few (little)
- think little of
- to little purpose
- too little, too late