Definition of few in English:


adjective, pronoun, & determiner

  • 1A small number of.

    [as adjective] [as determiner] ‘may I ask a few questions?’
    [as pronoun] ‘I will recount a few of the stories told me’
    ‘there are hundreds of applicants but only a few are selected’
    a small number, a handful, a sprinkling, one or two, a couple, two or three
    not many, hardly any, scarcely any
    View synonyms
  • 2Used to emphasize how small a number of people or things is.

    [as adjective] [as determiner] ‘he had few friends’
    [as pronoun] ‘few thought to challenge these assumptions’
    ‘very few of the titles have any literary merit’
    ‘a club with as few as 20 members’
    [comparative] ‘a population of fewer than two million’
    [as adjective] ‘sewing was one of her few pleasures’
    [superlative] ‘ask which products have the fewest complaints’
    not many, hardly any, scarcely any
    View synonyms


  • 1The minority of people; the elect.

    ‘art is not just for the few’
    • ‘This little gem is entitled The Many Not The Few, and is a paen to socialist ideals.’
    • ‘The Few, The Proud - a Norfolk Marine tells the story of a rooftop fight in Iraq.’
    • ‘Richard Douthwaite is the author of The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet.’
    • ‘Emancipation is not a right that can be curtailed in favour of the interests of the few.’
    • ‘Do you believe in the Welfare of the Community or the Welfare of the Few.’
    • ‘The world belongs to the few, not to the many, and least of all to all.’
    • ‘We should concentrate on peace and health for all before we embark on glory for the few.’
    • ‘They believe they are, as stressed by a famous advertisement recruiting campaign, ‘The Few, The Proud’.’
    • ‘He has written 17 books, including: Democracy for the Few, Dirty Truths, Against Empire, and The Terrorism Trap.’
    • ‘What it did do, spectacularly, was showcase how the loudest and best-connected Few can dictate customs to the Many.’
    a small number, a handful, a sprinkling, one or two, a couple, two or three
    not many, hardly any
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1British The RAF pilots who took part in the Battle of Britain.
      • ‘More than 20,000 Spitfires were built but the aircraft that carried The Few are now sadly few themselves.’
      • ‘The Few, as Churchill dubbed the Fighter Command aircrew, were not the free-spirited, knights of the air, officer types immortalised by the media.’
      • ‘He read The Few: Summer 1940, the Battle of Britain by Philip Kaplan and Richard Collier.’
      • ‘He was well known for his part in Gone with the Wind and had just starred with David Niven in The First of the Few, the story of the Spitfire.’
      • ‘It's called The Few and it takes place in The Battle of Britain.’
      • ‘In common with ceremonies across the land, the Last Post and Reveille rang out as the Few were remembered and honoured.’
      • ‘The 60th anniversary of the defining air battle of the Second World War will see people gathering across North and East Yorkshire to remember the Few.’
      • ‘Yes, and I'm sure the Few fought the Battle of Britain so that chinless little Nazis could fight elections in this country.’
      • ‘It was great to see the unveiling of the Battle Of Britain memorial in London as a tribute to The Few, to whom we undoubtedly owe a profound debt for their sacrifice and bravery 65 years ago.’
      • ‘The only sad part is that The Few are becoming fewer every year, and it won't be the same when they're gone.’
      • ‘We all know that the Royal Air Force, the Few, won the Battle of Britain in 1940 to prevent a Nazi invasion.’


Fewer versus less: strictly speaking, the rule is that fewer, the comparative form of few, is used with words denoting people or countable things (fewer members; fewer books). Less, on the other hand, is used with mass nouns, denoting things which cannot be counted (less money; less bother). It is regarded as incorrect in standard English to use less with count nouns, as in less people or less words, although this is one of the most widespread errors made by native speakers. It is not so obvious which word should be used with than. Less is normally used with numerals (a score of less than 100) and with expressions of measurement or time (less than two weeks; less than four miles away), but fewer is used if the things denoted by the number are seen as individual items or units (there were fewer than ten contestants)


  • every few

    • Once in every small group of (typically units of time)

      ‘she visits every few weeks’
      • ‘The mobile phone keeps ringing every few minutes and messages have her grinning widely.’
      • ‘The emphasis was moving away from local struggles to big protests once every few months.’
      • ‘You've got to understand that he and I only talk once every few months on the phone.’
      • ‘She also hopes to visit Britain every few months to attend council meetings.’
      • ‘But forty or so of you who visit at least once every few days think I'm doing something right.’
      • ‘With a bulk shop online once every few weeks you can top up on all basic foodstuffs and household items.’
      • ‘Decant the mixture into a spray bottle and spray once every few days on your garden.’
      • ‘And it has to be said that this particular topic has a habit of coming around at least once every few years.’
      • ‘As I sat down at my desk, I couldn't stop running my hands through my hair and flicking it every few seconds.’
      • ‘Marlborough, being an old coaching stop-over town, once boasted a pub every few steps.’
  • few and far between

    • Scarce; infrequent.

      ‘my inspired moments are few and far between’
      • ‘Benefits from privatisation/fragmentation have been few and far between but this is one of them.’
      • ‘But the cases where physical evidence exists to prove their innocence are few and far between.’
      • ‘Make it easy on yourself - enjoy the magic moments in life - they are too few and far between.’
      • ‘Details remain few and far between, and as yet no background studies have been prepared.’
      • ‘Television ads are few and far between; the yard signs and badges are more scarce.’
      • ‘The chance of people learning by experience gets less and less as the jobs become few and far between.’
      • ‘Realistically, however, at his age opportunities to make blockbusters are few and far between.’
      • ‘There are moments of genuine wit, but they are too few and far between to make a noticeable difference.’
      • ‘Raises to Bahamians will be few and far between, and they will try to extract the most out of the workers.’
      • ‘In a world befogged by superficiality, moments of clarity are few and far between.’
      scarce, scant, scanty, meagre, insufficient, negligible, in short supply
      thin on the ground, scattered, seldom met with, few and far between, infrequent, uncommon, rare, sporadic
      View synonyms
  • a good few

    • A fairly large number of.

      ‘we sat there for a good few minutes’
      • ‘While a good few of those ten happened on more than a one-off occasion, one every twelve months does seem rather spartan.’
      • ‘One group of four people were actually observed to sit down for a good few minutes and read all of them in-depth.’
      • ‘His collection of old York images numbers 2,500, and a good few of those show the tramway.’
      • ‘The possibilities are endless and the film manages to explore a good few of them.’
      • ‘I'm not ready for the full team but that makes me no different to a good few of the younger strikers who have been making the squads.’
      • ‘At 28 MacLean is right to consider that he has a good few years left in him.’
      • ‘Naturally a good few of the questions are rather risqué, which made for some interesting moments.’
      • ‘He knew Loiseau personally, has met many of the great chefs and has put a good few of their meals under his belt.’
      • ‘After a good few more video sessions, we know about the French strengths and possible weaknesses.’
      • ‘Three of these heads of state and a good few of the ordinary victims perished after 1899.’
      an amount, a number, a good few, a good number, a lot, a large amount, a good deal, a great deal
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  • have a few

    • informal Drink enough alcohol to be slightly drunk.

      • ‘He's a laugh, just a bit moody when he's had a few.’
      • ‘Oh well, no harm done, he's a happy loving guy when he's had a few.’
      • ‘The most worrying thing is, I've had quite a few and my spelling is still impekabel.’
      • ‘Puff has no more effect on you than alcohol and certainly does not turn you violent when you have had a few like booze.’
      drink alcohol, take alcohol, tipple, indulge
      View synonyms
  • no fewer than

    • Used to emphasize a surprisingly large number.

      ‘there are no fewer than seventy different brand names’
      • ‘The 33 individuals identified by Scotland on Sunday between them share no fewer than 69 posts.’
      • ‘And I've just discovered that next March contains no fewer than five Mondays.’
      • ‘Over the period it has topped the yearly sales charts no fewer than 11 times.’
      • ‘In fact, there should have been no fewer than four Leevale runners on the team for Sunday's long course race.’
      • ‘Although they got no further than the foothills, Patricia and Peter found no fewer than three new species of rhododendron.’
      • ‘In North America, when a C-section is performed, no fewer than four doctors are present in the room.’
      • ‘In Afghanistan, no fewer than three such operations were mounted.’
      • ‘Eventually, he was supplying designs to no fewer than 50 manufacturers.’
      • ‘Built by car manufacturer Ford, the car, worth half a million pounds, was surrounded by no fewer than four security guards.’
      • ‘Club action returns this week with no fewer than five teams in action.’
  • not a few

    • A considerable number.

      ‘virtually every soul star, and not a few blues singers, learned to sing in church’
      • ‘John knew every haulage owner and driver as well as registration numbers and make of lorries in Connacht and not a few from outside as well.’
      • ‘And not a few of Le Va's recent drawings are downright epic in scale and symbolic reach.’
      • ‘I must now take responsibility for enraging my party leader, alienating the people of a great city, and incurring the anger of not a few of The Spectator's readers.’
      • ‘But his critics, and they were not a few, said privately that the benevolent Burke image would not last.’
      • ‘If rakhi day brings happiness to many men in town, it also brings disappointment to not a few, especially on the city's campuses.’
      • ‘One could make the case that over the course of history Europe has produced most of the great scientific insights and not a few of the major inventions.’
      • ‘I don't understand why not a few on the right feel the need to defend the sorts of people who make off with millions after failing miserably in their job.’
      • ‘Rodger's book is a veritable feast of facts (and not a few prejudices), culled from a vast range of sources and laced with some salty anecdotes.’
      • ‘This sentiment is shared by not a few, many of whom are committed to the belief that country comes first.’
      • ‘How you feel about this will color your judgment of the work but won't decrease your enjoyment of the good parts, of which there are not a few.’
  • quite a few

    • A fairly large number.

      ‘quite a few people got the wrong impression’
      • ‘He has been able to find sufficient time to create quite a few items during his free time.’
      • ‘I am not sure I have a hero as such, but there are quite a few figures that I admire.’
      • ‘Yes quite a few, it's one of the things about living in London or any big city I guess.’
      • ‘Branson understands that quite a few of us harbour a desire to rise above the multitude.’
      • ‘There are others, of course, quite a few of them, but it'd be boring to list them all.’
      • ‘It means that I have to buy everybody presents, and not get anything back from quite a few.’
      • ‘You need quite a few to make the juice for this jelly, and it is much easier to do if you have a blender or food processor.’
      • ‘He admits that quite a few very experienced climbers have died on the West Ridge route.’
      • ‘I explained quite a few more times but eventually he just shut his window and took no notice.’
      • ‘Sligo has been waiting for quite a few things for a long time and now two of them come together.’
  • some few

    • Some but not many.

      • ‘In some few principles, or perhaps in one simple principle, they all united.’
      • ‘Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.’
      • ‘There are some few Englishmen who treat ignorant public opinion with the contempt that it deserves - and I am one of them.’
      • ‘Despite these well-documented stories, there are still some few people who cling to the small hope that they can have a ‘normal life’ - as they believe it.’
      • ‘I was with your husband just some few hours ago and he told me about the mealie meal issue you were discussing early this morning.’
      • ‘I unreservedly apologise on behalf of brother priests and religious [members of the church community] for the hurt that has been done by some few of our number.’
      • ‘Remember how long the regime for paying for hospital treatment lasted when it affected the whole population - some few months - until everyone knew someone that had been asked to pay and decided that it was not acceptable.’
      • ‘I see no sign of let up - some few deserters - plenty tired of war, but the masses determined to fight it out.’
      • ‘We like the Nigerians, but we want some few Americans or British, to help them out and ensure the stability of our country.’
      • ‘This is because some few hundred vegetable, fruit and grocery vendors set up shop here from the wee hours (as they have been doing for over two decades) and by residents' consensus, the leftover wares of the day are left behind.’


Old English fēawe, fēawa, of Germanic origin; related to Old High German fao, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin paucus and Greek pauros small.