From Middle High German weinec, wēnec (“marginal”), from Old High German *weinag, wēnag (“miserable”), from Proto-Germanic *wainagaz. The form with -ei- is original, that with -ē- arose through conflation with the morphologically simpler Old High German wē (“woe”), both akin to English woe. The diphthong -ei- later on regularly became -ē- in several dialects, which further strengthened the monophthongal form wenig. Cognate with Dutch weinig, Hunsrik wenich.
- For quotations of use of this term, see Citations:wenig.
- The irregular compared forms minder, am mindesten are now restricted to formal usage where they are still commonly found as adverbs, chiefly in negation and especially when modifying adjectives. For example: nicht minder gefährlich – "no less dangerous", alongside: nicht weniger gefährlich. Otherwise, only the regular forms are now commonly used.
- When not preceded by an article or determiner, wenig is usually left undeclined: wenig Geld, wenig Kinder. It may, alternatively, be declined in the plural: wenige Kinder. The latter is preferable in the sense of “a small percentage of children”, while wenig Kinder is more common in the sense of “a small number of children”. Declined singular forms are possible in certain constructions, but are marginal.
- When preceded by an article or determiner, wenig is declined like a normal adjective: das wenige Geld (“the little [amount of] money”).
- The comparative forms behave like the positive forms, except that declined plural forms without a preceding article or determiner are very rare.
- The superlative forms are declined like normal adjectives.