adverb, a compar. of little with least as superl.
adjective, a compar. of little with least as superl.
Origin of less
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.
adjective, lit·tler or less or less·er, lit·tlest or least.
adverb, less, least.
Origin of little
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|Pierre Assouline|January 9, 2015|DAILY BEAST
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|Lizzie Crocker|January 9, 2015|DAILY BEAST
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|Nina Strochlic|January 8, 2015|DAILY BEAST
No one wants to align with less freedom at a time like this.Politicians Only Love Journalists When They're Dead|Luke O’Neil|January 8, 2015|DAILY BEAST
The pulps brought new readers to serious fiction, making it less intimidating with alluring art and low prices.
His comedies are less remarkable on the stage than they are in the library.
He might pretend to cynicism to hide his deep pleasure in it; none the less, he was moved profoundly.Mavericks|William MacLeod Raine
I thought him ten years less, and he spoke with the dogmatism of youth.The Grey Room|Eden Phillpotts
We take a less gloomy view of our errors now our father confessor listens to us over his egg and coffee.Adam Bede|George Eliot
And now he had less of the old high spirits that had enabled him to laugh off the cares of debt.Goldsmith|William Black
- 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
Word Origin for less
suffix forming adjectives
Word Origin for -less
- a small quantity, extent, or duration ofthe little hope there is left; very little milk
- (as pronoun)save a little for me
- a lot
Word Origin for little
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.
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