Nearby words

  1. lesion,
  2. leslie,
  3. lesotho,
  4. lespedeza,
  5. lesquerella,
  6. less than,
  7. lessee,
  8. lessen,
  9. lesseps,
  10. lesser

Idioms

    less than, by far short of being; not in the least; hardly at all: The job is less than perfect.

Origin of less

before 900; Middle English; Old English lǣs (adv.), lǣssa (adj.); cognate with Old Frisian lês (adv.), lêssa (adj.). See least

Can be confusedfewer less (see usage note at the current entry)

Usage note

Even though less has been used before plural nouns ( less words; less men ) since the time of King Alfred, many modern usage guides say that only fewer can be used in such contexts. Less, they say, should modify singular mass nouns ( less sugar; less money ) and singular abstract nouns ( less honesty; less love ). It should modify plural nouns only when they suggest combination into a unit, group, or aggregation: less than $50 (a sum of money); less than three miles (a unit of distance). With plural nouns specifying individuals or readily distinguishable units, the guides say that fewer is the only proper choice: fewer words; fewer men; no fewer than 31 of the 50 states.
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.

little

[lit-l]

adjective, lit·tler or less or less·er, lit·tlest or least.

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.

adverb, less, least.

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.

noun

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.

Origin of little

before 900; Middle English, Old English lȳtel (lȳt few, small + -el diminutive suffix), cognate with Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, Old Norse lītill

SYNONYMS FOR little
1–4. tiny, teeny, wee. Little, diminutive, minute, small refer to that which is not large or significant. Little (the opposite of big ) is very general, covering size, extent, number, quantity, amount, duration, or degree: a little boy; a little time. Small (the opposite of large and of great ) can many times be used interchangeably with little, but is especially applied to what is limited or below the average in size: small oranges. Diminutive denotes (usually physical) size that is much less than the average or ordinary; it may suggest delicacy: the baby's diminutive fingers; diminutive in size but autocratic in manner. Minute suggests that which is so tiny it is difficult to discern, or that which implies attentiveness to the smallest details: a minute quantity; a minute exam.

Related formslit·tlish [lit-l-ish, lit-lish] /ˈlɪt l ɪʃ, ˈlɪt lɪʃ/, adjectivelit·tle·ness, noun

-less

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

Middle English -les, Old English -lēas, special use of lēas free from, without, false; cognate with Old Norse lauss, German los, loose

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for less


British Dictionary definitions for less

less

determiner

  1. the comparative of little (def. 1) less sugar; less spirit than before
  2. (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

adverb

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

preposition

subtracting; minusthree weeks less a day

Word Origin for less

Old English lǣssa (adj), lǣs (adv, n)

usage

Less should not be confused with fewer. Less refers strictly only to quantity and not to number: there is less water than before. Fewer means smaller in number: there are fewer people than before

-less

suffix forming adjectives

without; lackingspeechless
not able to (do something) or not able to be (done, performed, etc)countless

Word Origin for -less

Old English -lās, from lēas lacking

little

determiner

(often preceded by a)
  1. a small quantity, extent, or duration ofthe little hope there is left; very little milk
  2. (as pronoun)save a little for me
not muchlittle damage was done
make little of See make of (def. 3)
not a little
  1. very
  2. a lot
quite a little a considerable amount
think little of to have a low opinion of

adjective

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

adverb

(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 for little

Old English lӯtel; related to lӯr few, Old High German luzzil

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 less
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with less

less

In addition to the idiom beginning with less

  • less than

also see:

  • couldn't care less
  • in (less than) no time
  • more or less
  • much less

little

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

also see:

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