less

1 of 5

adjective

comparative of little entry 1

1
: constituting a more limited number or amount
less than three
less than half done
2
: of lower rank, degree, or importance
no less a person than the president himself
3
a
: of reduced size, extent, or degree
b
: more limited in quantity
in less time
Less vs. Fewer: Usage Guide

The traditional view is that less applies to matters of degree, value, or amount and modifies collective nouns, mass nouns, or nouns denoting an abstract whole while fewer applies to matters of number and modifies plural nouns. Less has been used to modify plural nouns since the days of King Alfred and the usage, though roundly decried, appears to be increasing. Less is more likely than fewer to modify plural nouns when distances, sums of money, and a few fixed phrases are involved

less than 100 miles
an investment of less than $2000
in 25 words or less

and as likely as fewer to modify periods of time.

in less (or fewer) than four hours

less

2 of 5

adverb

comparative of little entry 2

: to a lesser extent or degree

less

3 of 5

noun

plural less
1
: a smaller portion or quantity
2
: something of less importance

less

4 of 5

preposition

: diminished by : minus

-less

5 of 5

adjective suffix

1
: destitute of : not having
witless
childless
2
: unable to be acted on or to act (in a specified way)
dauntless
fadeless
Phrases
no less
used to emphasize that something is regarded as impressive or surprising
wants to be driven to the airport, in a limousine no less
less and less
: to a progressively smaller size or extent
less than
: by no means : not at all
less than honest in his replies

Example Sentences

Adjective We need less talk and more work! She finished in less time than I did. Less detail is sometimes better than more detail. 8 times 2 is less than 6 times 3. We made it there in less than six hours. The whole procedure takes less than five minutes. The illness affects less than one percent of the population. Adverb This test seemed much less difficult than the last one. Which test is the less difficult of the two? Do you have another one that's less expensive? She visits much less often than she used to. They're focusing more on quality and less on quantity. Their band is less concerned with making music than with making money. Preposition We earned two hundred dollars, less travel expenses. Adjective suffix my first painless day since leaving the hospital See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Oregonians have historically earned less than people in other parts of the country, but over the past decade the state has narrowed the gap considerably. oregonlive, 27 Nov. 2022 With 45,000 students, UC-Berkeley is far less White in enrollment than many other prestigious universities. Nick Anderson, Washington Post, 27 Nov. 2022 Adobe Analytics expects total holiday online sales (from Nov. 1-Dec. 31) to be up 2.5%, a jump less than last year’s 8.6% increase. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, 27 Nov. 2022 With 45,000 students, UC-Berkeley is far less White in enrollment than many other prestigious universities. Nick Anderson, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Nov. 2022 One of our favorite cheap laptops, the HP Pavilion X360 charges notably less for huge amounts of RAM than other manufacturers. Eric Ravenscraft, WIRED, 27 Nov. 2022 Omicron generally caused less severe disease than previous variants, but hospitalizations and deaths shot up given the sheer numbers of infected people. Arkansas Online, 26 Nov. 2022 He was clocked driving 126 mph on Loop 101 – during morning rush hour, no less. Bob Mcmanaman, The Arizona Republic, 26 Nov. 2022 That’s far less than the US inflation rate of almost 8% during the 12 months ended in October. Time, 26 Nov. 2022
Adverb
One thing to know: Because control of the Senate won't hinge on Georgia, the upcoming contest may be quieter — and less expensive — than the runoff in early 2021. Nicole Fallert, USA TODAY, 28 Nov. 2022 In addition to its other many benefits, hair Botox can also be somewhat less expensive than a keratin treatment (which can cost upward of $400). Lindy Segal, Harper's BAZAAR, 28 Nov. 2022 Some of our favorite cheap headphones are even less expensive. Gear Team, WIRED, 27 Nov. 2022 And for those who can’t afford either of these options, there are less expensive apartments available as well as ad hoc shelters where accommodation costs around $200 a night. Lauren Tierney, Washington Post, 26 Nov. 2022 Recent data has shown that Americans are increasingly holding out for big discounts, or replacing luxury goods with less expensive alternatives. Harold Maass, The Week, 25 Nov. 2022 Many cities had discouraged out-of-town investors from buying homes until now, so as to make apartments less expensive for longtime residents. Keith Bradsher, New York Times, 25 Nov. 2022 Douglas firs are light green with fine needles and are typically less expensive and more fragrant. Jessica Roy, Los Angeles Times, 23 Nov. 2022 At $2,100 per month, Salazar, a dental assistant, said the house was one of the less expensive options in the area, having left an apartment that was going up to $1,800 per month. Trevor Fraser, Orlando Sentinel, 22 Nov. 2022
Noun
Jobless and benefit-less: What should COVID-19's economic victims do for health insurance? Shefali Luthra, Phil Galewitz And Rachel Bluth, USA TODAY, 3 Apr. 2020 Hassett warned that March job lesses could be among the worst on record. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, 20 Mar. 2020 But that doesn't make the scar (and the fall that preceded it) any less of an emotional trauma. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, 8 Oct. 2018 The have-lesses would dig in and hope to sneak something on the break. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, 17 June 2018 Sometimes burp-less is used as a marketing term for Asian varieties of cucumbers. The Editors Of Organic Life, Good Housekeeping, 19 May 2017 Studying at home makes child care less of an obstacle and cuts out commuting time. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland.com, 4 Feb. 2018 The Giants were shut out for the first time 13 years at Arizona, pulse-less on offense. Peter King, SI.com, 26 Dec. 2017 Sleek and Brushed Back Another way to help to minimize the exposure of the scalp is to go part-less with a sleek, brushed back, wet look. Wendy Sy, Allure, 24 Oct. 2017
Preposition
Get ready for a lot less facial hair on your television. Megan Friedman, Country Living, 17 Nov. 2016 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'less.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective, Adverb, Noun, and Preposition

Middle English, partly from Old English lǣs, adverb & noun; partly from lǣssa, adjective; akin to Old Frisian lēs less

Adjective suffix

Middle English -les, -lesse, from Old English -lēas, from lēas devoid, false; akin to Old High German lōs loose, Old English losian to get lost — more at lose

First Known Use

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adverb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Preposition

1623, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of less was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near less

Cite this Entry

“Less.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/less. Accessed 3 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

less 1 of 5

adjective

1
: being a smaller number : fewer
8 times 2 is less than 6 times 3
less than six hours
2
: of lower rank, degree, or importance
no less a person than the president
3
: not so much : being a smaller amount
we need less talk and more work
finished in less time

less

2 of 5

adverb

: not so much or so well
less difficult
liked the second book less

less

3 of 5

preposition

: minus entry 1 sense 1
the regular price less a discount

less

4 of 5

noun

plural less
1
: a smaller number or amount
we have less than before
2
: something that is poorer or less important than another
could be arrested for less

-less

5 of 5

adjective suffix

ləs
1
: not having
childless
2
: not able to be acted on or to act in a specified way
ceaseless

Medical Definition

less, lesser

comparative of little

More from Merriam-Webster on less

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