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.
- The irregular comparation forms minder, am mindesten are now restricted to formal usage. They are still commonly found in formal writing as adverbs modifying adjectives, chiefly in negation. For example: nicht minder gefährlich – "no less dangerous", alongside: nicht weniger gefährlich. In all other contexts, only the regular forms are 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, but not in the singular: 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”.)
- 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 are invariable and are never declined; they cannot be preceded by any article or determiner. The superlative forms are declined like normal adjectives.