Definition of few in English:

few

adjective, pronoun, & determiner

  • 1a fewA small number of.

    as determiner ‘may I ask a few questions?’
    as pronoun ‘I will recount a few of the stories told me’
    ‘many believe it but only a few are prepared to say’
    • ‘Not as simple or elegant as the original, but a few of the additions are pretty good.’
    • ‘She also asked him a few more questions until we were certain he was my twin brother.’
    • ‘After the last day in the office on the Friday a few of us went out for beers in Aoyama.’
    • ‘These are a few of the facts known at the time, you now have to decide, war or no war.’
    • ‘Place the warm fennel on the plate and arrange the fish on top with a few of the cucumber pieces.’
    • ‘What happened was I thought that a few of the posts on my blog were in a different font.’
    • ‘Now returned to her, we hoped it would help answer a few questions about the old boy.’
    • ‘So we asked a few of them for half a dozen innovations in retail that are getting them excited.’
    • ‘We came up with a few of those by copying and exaggerating things that we and our friends got up to!’
    • ‘These are just a few of the instances that I can remember of being let down by the council.’
    • ‘If we'd beaten them in a few of those finals people would be saying the exact opposite.’
    • ‘I will be based near a few of the training camps and hope to see what the England boys are doing.’
    • ‘Many have attended rehearsal classes five nights a week and a few of them seven days a week.’
    • ‘The reason for my letter is to ask if I and a few of my fellow fliers are the only ones to object?’
    • ‘There are a few of the lads I used to play with who are now in the first team like Bryan Stewart.’
    • ‘I spoke to a few of the lads that I knew at Dewsbury and they encouraged me to come down.’
    • ‘Well buy a few of them and stick your chocolate in that, it won't get warmer or go dead cold.’
    • ‘As so often with these affairs the pace was furious enough to scare a few of the veterans on show.’
    • ‘Otherwise, leave a few of the old plants in if there is space and let them set seed.’
    • ‘So, a few of us who would like to keep it going have decided to take it upon ourselves to start it up anew.’
    not many, hardly any, scarcely any
    a small number, a handful, a sprinkling, one or two, a couple, two or three
    View synonyms
  • 2Used to emphasize how small a number of people or things is.

    as determiner ‘he had few friends’
    as pronoun ‘few thought to challenge these assumptions’
    ‘very few of the titles have any literary merit’
    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’
    ‘one of the few who survived’
    • ‘There are few people in this world who deserve any or all of the adulation they receive.’
    • ‘It is one of Cumbria's few evergreen flora of the fells and can be seen all year round.’
    • ‘It needs to have a mass appeal so it stays firmly in the mainstream and takes few risks.’
    • ‘It's a sorry thing to say, but very few objects in my home give me a pure aesthetic thrill.’
    • ‘There were no airs and very few graces, just a good eye and an uncomplicated swing at the ball.’
    • ‘He also spared few people his assurances that just about no one was as powerful as he was.’
    • ‘It is one of the few abbeys to have survived to the present day as a parish church.’
    • ‘His education, he told me, was unlikely to get him a decent job and he had few friends.’
    • ‘The Thals are one of the very few powers in this world able to make me root for the Daleks.’
    • ‘These parties may win many of their votes on the race issue, but they win very few votes.’
    • ‘The few people who do go shooting on this land only get what is needed for the pot.’
    • ‘Try to be nice about it though and offer them a can of beer or you will make few friends.’
    • ‘This time there are three too many who do not watch them and three too few who do.’
    • ‘Jeff and I were one of the few friends that were lucky to get lockers next to each other.’
    • ‘If we lose or draw, then I wouldn't see us being able to make up that ground in so few games.’
    • ‘Hall is one of those who left the pit, with few regrets, as soon as he was paid to do so.’
    • ‘In fact it is a great place to take kids of all ages - relaxing and with few long queues.’
    • ‘Sport is full of unusual people of high ability, but very few of them are film stars.’
    • ‘There are very few close ups and at times its hard to tell whose doing what to whom and why.’
    • ‘There were so many of them and so few tables that some of them were forced to share.’
    not many, hardly any, scarcely any
    scarce, scant, scanty, meagre, insufficient, negligible, in short supply
    View synonyms

noun

as plural noun the few
  • The minority of people; the elect.

    ‘a world that increasingly belongs to the few’
    • ‘The world belongs to the few, not to the many, and least of all to all.’
    • ‘He has written 17 books, including: Democracy for the Few, Dirty Truths, Against Empire, and The Terrorism Trap.’
    • ‘They believe they are, as stressed by a famous advertisement recruiting campaign, ‘The Few, The Proud’.’
    • ‘We should concentrate on peace and health for all before we embark on glory for the few.’
    • ‘Richard Douthwaite is the author of The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet.’
    • ‘Do you believe in the Welfare of the Community or the Welfare of the Few.’
    • ‘Emancipation is not a right that can be curtailed in favour of the interests of the few.’
    • ‘What it did do, spectacularly, was showcase how the loudest and best-connected Few can dictate customs to the Many.’
    • ‘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.’
    a small number, a handful, a sprinkling, one or two, a couple, two or three
    View synonyms

Usage

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; fewer than ten contestants). Less, on the other hand, is used with mass nouns, denoting things that cannot be counted (less money; less music). In addition, less is normally used with numbers (less than 10,000) and with expressions of measurement or time (less than two weeks; less than four miles away). But to use less with count nouns, as in less people or less words, is incorrect in standard English

Phrases

  • every few

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

      ‘she visits every few weeks’
      • ‘Marlborough, being an old coaching stop-over town, once boasted a pub every few steps.’
      • ‘The emphasis was moving away from local struggles to big protests once every few months.’
      • ‘Decant the mixture into a spray bottle and spray once every few days on your garden.’
      • ‘The mobile phone keeps ringing every few minutes and messages have her grinning widely.’
      • ‘As I sat down at my desk, I couldn't stop running my hands through my hair and flicking it every few seconds.’
      • ‘And it has to be said that this particular topic has a habit of coming around at least once every few years.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You've got to understand that he and I only talk once every few months on the phone.’
  • few and far between

    • Scarce; infrequent.

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

    • A fairly large number of.

      ‘it had been around for a good few years’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘One group of four people were actually observed to sit down for a good few minutes and read all of them in-depth.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘While a good few of those ten happened on more than a one-off occasion, one every twelve months does seem rather spartan.’
      • ‘His collection of old York images numbers 2,500, and a good few of those show the tramway.’
      an amount, a number, a good few, a good number, a lot, a large amount, good deal, great deal, a good deal, a great deal
      View synonyms
  • have a few

    • informal Drink enough alcohol to be slightly drunk.

      ‘I tend to keep my mouth shut, unless I've had a few’
      • ‘Puff has no more effect on you than alcohol and certainly does not turn you violent when you have had a few like booze.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He's a laugh, just a bit moody when he's had a few.’
      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’
      • ‘Eventually, he was supplying designs to no fewer than 50 manufacturers.’
      • ‘In fact, there should have been no fewer than four Leevale runners on the team for Sunday's long course race.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And I've just discovered that next March contains no fewer than five Mondays.’
      • ‘Although they got no further than the foothills, Patricia and Peter found no fewer than three new species of rhododendron.’
      • ‘In Afghanistan, no fewer than three such operations were mounted.’
      • ‘In North America, when a C-section is performed, no fewer than four doctors are present in the room.’
      • ‘The 33 individuals identified by Scotland on Sunday between them share no fewer than 69 posts.’
      • ‘Over the period it has topped the yearly sales charts no fewer than 11 times.’
  • not a few

    • A considerable number.

      ‘his fiction has caused not a few readers to see red’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This sentiment is shared by not a few, many of whom are committed to the belief that country comes first.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And not a few of Le Va's recent drawings are downright epic in scale and symbolic reach.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 can do it’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He has been able to find sufficient time to create quite a few items during his free time.’
      • ‘There are others, of course, quite a few of them, but it'd be boring to list them all.’
      • ‘I explained quite a few more times but eventually he just shut his window and took no notice.’
      • ‘Branson understands that quite a few of us harbour a desire to rise above the multitude.’
      • ‘I am not sure I have a hero as such, but there are quite a few figures that I admire.’
      • ‘Sligo has been waiting for quite a few things for a long time and now two of them come together.’
      • ‘Yes quite a few, it's one of the things about living in London or any big city I guess.’
      • ‘It means that I have to buy everybody presents, and not get anything back from quite a few.’
  • some few

    • Some but not many.

      ‘some few people are born without any sense of time’
      • ‘I see no sign of let up - some few deserters - plenty tired of war, but the masses determined to fight it out.’
      • ‘There are some few Englishmen who treat ignorant public opinion with the contempt that it deserves - and I am one of them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We like the Nigerians, but we want some few Americans or British, to help them out and ensure the stability of our country.’
      • ‘Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In some few principles, or perhaps in one simple principle, they all united.’

Origin

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’.

Pronunciation

few

/fju//fyo͞o/