From Middle English -les, -leas, from Old English -lēas (“-less”), from lēas (“devoid of, loose from, false”), from Proto-Germanic *lausaz (“loose”). (Not related to less, which derives from *laisiz, *laisizô.) Cognate with Scots -less, West Frisian -leas, Saterland Frisian -loos, Dutch -loos (“-less”), Low German -los, German los, -los, Swedish -lös, Icelandic -laus. More at lease (“false”).
- Lacking (something); without (something). Added usually to a noun to form an adjective signifying a lack of that noun.
- 2013 September-October, Henry Petroski, “The Evolution of Eyeglasses”, in American Scientist:
- The ability of a segment of a glass sphere to magnify whatever is placed before it was known around the year 1000, when the spherical segment was called a reading stone, essentially what today we might term a frameless magnifying glass or plain glass paperweight.
- Adjectives formed using -less often form nouns by the addition of -ness (e.g. helplessness), but generally do not form nouns by the addition of other noun-forming endings.
- A notable exception to the usual usage of this suffix is that doubtless is usually an adverb, rather than an adjective.