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See also: -less


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  • IPA(key): /lɛs/
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  • Rhymes: -ɛs

Etymology 1[edit]

Adverb From Middle English les, lesse, leasse, lasse, from Old English lǣs (less, lest), from Proto-Germanic *laisiz (smaller, lesser, fewer, lower), from Proto-Indo-European *leys- (to shrink, grow thin, become small, be gentle). Cognate with Old Frisian lēs (less), Old Saxon lēs (less).

Determiner and preposition from Middle English lees, lesse, leasse, lasse, from Old English lǣssa (less), from Proto-Germanic *laisizan-, from Proto-Germanic *laisiz (smaller, lesser, fewer, lower) (see above). Cognate with Old Frisian lessa (less).

Verb from Middle English lessen, from the determiner.

Noun from Middle English lesse, from the determiner.


less (not comparable)

  1. To a smaller extent or degree.
    This gadget is less useful than I expected.
    I like him less each time I see him.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 8, in The Celebrity:
      I corralled the judge, and we started off across the fields, in no very mild state of fear of that gentleman's wife, whose vigilance was seldom relaxed. And thus we came by a circuitous route to Mohair, the judge occupied by his own guilty thoughts, and I by others not less disturbing.
    • 1957, Lester Del Rey, Rockets Through Space: The Story of Man's Preparations to Explore the Universe:
      This section of space is much less empty than that between the stars, []
    • 2012 November 7, Matt Bai, “Winning a Second Term, Obama Will Confront Familiar Headwinds”, in New York Times[1]:
      That brief moment after the election four years ago, when many Americans thought Mr. Obama’s election would presage a new, less fractious political era, now seems very much a thing of the past.
    • 2013 May-June, Katrina G. Claw, “Rapid Evolution in Eggs and Sperm”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3:
      In plants, the ability to recognize self from nonself plays an important role in fertilization, because self-fertilization will result in less diverse offspring than fertilization with pollen from another individual.



  1. comparative form of little: more little: a smaller amount (of); not as much. [from 14th c.]
    • 2013 May-June, William E. Conner, “An Acoustic Arms Race”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3, page 206-7:
      Earless ghost swift moths become “invisible” to echolocating bats by forming mating clusters close (less than half a meter) above vegetation and effectively blending into the clutter of echoes that the bat receives from the leaves and stems around them.
    I have less tea than coffee.
    You have even less sense than an inanimate object.
  2. (sometimes proscribed) comparative form of few: more few: fewer; a smaller number of. [from 9th c.]
    There are less people here now.
    Now there are three less green bottles hanging on the wall.
    • 1952, Thomas M Pryor, New York Times, 7 Sep 1952:
      This is not a happy situation as far as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes is concerned because it means less jobs for the union's members here at home.
    • 1999, George RR Martin, A Clash of Kings, Bantam 2011, page 555:
      No less than four standard-bearers went before them, carrying huge crimson banners emblazoned with the golden lion.
    • 2003, Timandra Harkness, The Guardian, 16 Dec 2003:
      Although my hosts, G S Aviation, can teach you to fly in Wiltshire, an intensive week at their French airfield means less problems with the weather, cheap but good living, and complete removal from any distractions.
  3. (archaic) comparative form of little: more little; smaller, lesser. [from 11th c.]
    • 1624, John Smith, Generall Historie, in Kupperman 1988, page 141:
      Those Rattels are somewhat like the chape of a Rapier, but lesse, which they take from the taile of a snake.
    • 1885, Edward James Reed, A Treatise on the Stability of Ships:
      It is also easy to see that the straight line, representing the locus of centres of buoyancy for a rectangular section, must lie at a less inclination to the base (i.e., to the horizontal) than a line representing the locus of such centres for a parabolic section []
Usage notes[edit]

Some[*] regard the use of the determiner less with countable quantities to be incorrect, stating that less should indicate only a reduction in uncountable quantity, or in size or significance, leaving fewer to indicate a smaller numerical quantity. For example, they suggest saying less sugar, but fewer people, not less people. Such a rule can allow distinctions such as:

  • Their troubles are fewer than ours, meaning "Their troubles are not so numerous as ours."
  • Their troubles are less than ours, meaning "Their troubles are not so great as ours."

Nevertheless, less has been widely understood and commonly used as a synonym for fewer since it first appeared in Old English as læs.

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.
See also[edit]



  1. Minus; not including
    It should then tax all of that as personal income, less the proportion of the car's annual mileage demonstrably clocked up on company business.


less (third-person singular simple present lesses, present participle lessing, simple past and past participle lessed)

  1. (archaic) To make less; to lessen.
    • 1386-90, Gower, Confessio Amantis
      What he will make lesse, he lesseth.
    • c. 1650, Patrick Gordon of Ruthven, A short Abridgement of Britane's Distemper, from the yeares of God 1639 to 1649, printed 1844 for the Spalding Club
      Som of the wiser sort, divining upon this vission, attrebute to the pen-knyves the lenth of tym before this should com to pass, and it hath been observed by sindrie that the earles of that hous befor wer the richest in the kingdom, having treasure and store besyde them, but ever since the addittion of this so great a revenue, they have lessed the stock by heavie burdens of debt and ingagment.
    • 1816, "Joseph Wharton" [obituary notice], Poulson's Advertiser, quoted in Genealogy of the Wharton Family of Philadelphia: 1664 to 1880, Anne Hollingsworth Wharton (1880)
      The protracted term of life, and the lingering illness through which this gentleman had passed, had neither impaired the original vigour of his mind, nor lessed the uncommon warmth of his affections.
    • 1852, Charles Heavysege, The revolt of Tartarus, a poem, page 116:
      Soon as I lessed the tree of this, it waned — Less cause, gave less effect
    • 1886, Horace Eaton Walker, The Lady of Dardale and Other Poems, page 74:
      The scattered beauties thro' the air, Have lessed the woe, the dread, the care;
Derived terms[edit]


less (uncountable)

  1. A smaller amount or quantity.
    Less is better.
    I have less to do today than yesterday.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English lesse, les, from Old English lǣs, as in þȳ lǣs þe.



  1. (obsolete) unless
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Ben Jonson to this entry?)


  • less at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • less” in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.
  • less” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020.




les +‎ -j




  1. second-person singular subjunctive present indefinite of les



From Latin elixus. Compare Italian lesso (boiled meat).



less m (invariable)

  1. boiled meat


Polish Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia pl


From German Löss.



less m inan

  1. (geology) loess


Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • less in Wielki słownik języka polskiego, Instytut Języka Polskiego PAN
  • less in Polish dictionaries at PWN



Clipping of lessen, pronunciation spelling of ledsen (sad), alternatively interpreted as a pronunciation spelling of a clipping of ledsen.



less (comparative mer less, superlative mest less)

  1. fed up, done
    Jag är less på hand jävla tjat!
    I'm fed up with his god damn nagging!


Only used with the common gender singular, comparated periphrastically, only used predicatively.