Definify.com

Webster 1913 Edition


Few

Few

(fū)
,
Adj.
[
Com
par.
Fewer
(fū′ẽr)
;
sup
erl.
Fewest
.]
[OE.
fewe
,
feawe
, AS.
feá
, pl.
feáwe
; akin to OS.
fāh
, OHG.
fō
fao
, Icel.
fār
, Sw.
få
, pl., Dan.
faa
, pl., Goth.
faus
, L.
paucus
, cf. Gr.
παῦρος
. Cf.
Paucity
.]
Not many; small, limited, or confined in number; – indicating a small portion of units or individuals constituting a whole; often, by ellipsis of a noun, a few people.
“Are not my days few?”
Job x. 20.
Few
know and
fewer
care.
Proverb.
Few is often used partitively; as, few of them.
The few
,
the minority; – opposed to the many or the majority.

Webster 1828 Edition


Few

FEW

,
Adj.
[L. pauci. The senses of few and small are often united.]
Not many; small in number. Party is the madness of many for the gain of a few; but few men, in times of party, regard the maxim.

Definition 2022


Few

Few

See also: few

English

Proper noun

Few

  1. (Britain) The pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain

few

few

See also: Few

English

Determiner

few (comparative fewer, superlative fewest)

  1. (preceded by another determiner) An indefinite, but usually small, number of.
    • 2013 August 10, A new prescription”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8848:
      No sooner has a [synthetic] drug been blacklisted than chemists adjust their recipe and start churning out a subtly different one. These legal highs are sold for the few months it takes the authorities to identify and ban them, and then the cycle begins again.
    I was expecting lots of people at the party, but very few (=almost none) turned up.   Quite a few of them (=many of them) were pleasantly surprised.   I don't know how many drinks I've had, but I've had a few. [This usage is likely ironic.]
  2. (used alone) Not many; a small (in comparison with another number stated or implied) but somewhat indefinite number of.
    There are few people who understand quantum theory.   Many are called, but few are chosen.
  3. (meteorology, of clouds) (US?) Obscuring one eighth to two eighths of the sky.
    Tonight: A few clouds. Increasing cloudiness overnight.
    NOAA definition of the term "few clouds": An official sky cover classification for aviation weather observations, descriptive of a sky cover of 1/8 to 2/8. This is applied only when obscuring phenomena aloft are present--that is, not when obscuring phenomena are surface-based, such as fog.
  4. (meteorology, of rainfall with regard to a location) (US?) Having a 10 percent chance of measurable precipitation (0.01 inch); used interchangeably with isolated.

Usage notes

  • Few is used with plural nouns only; its synonymous counterpart little is used with uncountable nouns.
  • Although indefinite in nature, a few is usually more than two (two often being referred to as "a couple of"), and less than "several". If the sample population is say between 5 and 20, a few would mean three or four, but no more than this. However, if the population sample size were in the millions, "a few" could refer to several hundred items. In other words, few in this context means a very very small percentage but far more than the 3 or 4 usually ascribed to it in its use with much much smaller numbers.
  • Few is grammatically affirmative but semantically negative, and it can license negative polarity items. For example, lift a finger usually cannot be used in affirmative sentences, but can be used in sentences with few.
  • He didn't lift a finger to help us.
  • He lifted a finger to help us. (ungrammatical)
  • Few people lifted a finger to help us.
  • A few people lifted a finger to help us. (grammatical, but using the meaning of 'a few')
  • Fewer people lifted a finger to help us. (ungrammatical)

Synonyms

Antonyms

Derived terms

Related terms

Translations

Pronoun

few

  1. Few people, few things.
    Many are called, but few are chosen.

Antonyms

Translations

References

Statistics

Most common English words before 1923: face · tell · because · #177: few · whom · love · far