Few Definition

Not many; a small number of.
Few seats were left, a few people came.
Webster's New World
Being more than one but indefinitely small in number.
Bowled a few strings.
American Heritage
An indefinitely small number of persons or things.
A few of the books have torn jackets.
American Heritage
An exclusive or limited number.
The discerning few; the fortunate few.
American Heritage
Not many; a small number.
Many left, few stayed; a few of the men are wearing hats.
Webster's New World

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

  • a sprinkling
  • a couple
  • a minority
  • a smattering
  • a number that can be counted on one's fingers
  • a scattering
  • several
  • not too many
  • not so many as one might expect
  • three or four
  • hardly any
  • scarcely any
  • a handful
  • a small number
  • not many

(preceded by another determiner) An indefinite, but usually small, number of.

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.]

(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.
(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 phenomenon aloft are present--that is, not when obscuring phenomenon are surface-based, such as fog.

(meteorology, of rainfall with regard to a location) (US?) Having a 10 percent chance of measurable precipitation (0.01 inch); used interchangeably with isolated.

few and far between
  • scarce; rare
Webster's New World
the few
  • the minority; esp., a small, select group
Webster's New World

Idioms, Phrasal Verbs Related to Few

Origin of Few

  • From Middle English fewe (“few”), from Old English fēawa, fēawe, fēa (“few”), from Proto-Germanic *fawaz (“few”), from Proto-Indo-European *ph₁w- (“few, small”). Cognate with Old Saxon (“few”), Old High German fao, fō (“few, little”), Old Norse fár (“few”), Gothic (fawai, “few”), Latin paucus (“little, few”). More at poor.

    From Wiktionary

  • From a speech by Winston Churchill that included the phrase "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

    From Wiktionary

  • Middle English fewe from Old English fēawe pau-1 in Indo-European roots

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition


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