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

Examples of less in a Sentence

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
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The squad for the 2024 Copa América is largely inexperienced, with 15 players on less than 10 caps for their country. Matias Grez, CNN, 20 June 2024 Erica Tremblay: Currently, there are less than 20 first language speakers of Caguya left, which means that the language is nearly extinct. Tomris Laffly, IndieWire, 20 June 2024
Adverb
The possibility of purebreds going to people who want to adopt, who might otherwise take a less fancy dog, angers many in the field who confront such challenges. David Wharton, Los Angeles Times, 21 June 2024 Over time, the cost-per-wear of durable denim is significantly lower compared to less durable alternatives. WWD, 21 June 2024
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
Preposition
Get ready for a lot less facial hair on your television. Megan Friedman, Country Living, 17 Nov. 2016 See all Example Sentences for less 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'less.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 24 Jun. 2024.

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
Etymology

Adjective suffix

Old English -lēas (suffix) "not having," from lēas "false"

Medical Definition

less, lesser

comparative of little

More from Merriam-Webster on less

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