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.
- 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
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.
And certainly not, as in He rarely talks about his outside activities, much less his family. The earliest record of this idiom is in John Milton's Paradise Lost (1671): “The world thou hast not seen, much less her glory.”
In addition to the idiom beginning with less
- less than
- couldn't care less
- in (less than) no time
- more or less
- much less