WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2015
less /lɛs/USA pronunciation
adv., [a comparative of little with least as superlative.]WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2015
adj., [a compar. of little with least as superl.]
- to a smaller length, amount, or degree:a less-developed country.
- to say nothing of[much/still + ~]I could barely pay for my own meal, much less hers.
- in any way different; other[with a negative word or phrase]He's nothing less than a thief.
- smaller in size, amount, degree, etc.:He has less money than before.
- lower in consideration, rank, or importance:complained to no less a person than the mayor (= to no one ranking lower than the mayor).
- fewer:There were less than ten speakers before me.
- a smaller amount or quantity:She eats less every day.
- something not as important:People have been imprisoned for less.
- minus; without;
subtracting:a year less two days.
- Idiomsless and less, to a decreasing extent or degree:I see less and less of my sister these days.
- -less is attached to nouns to form adjectives with the meaning "without, not having (the thing or quality named by the noun)'':care + -less → careless; shame + -less → shameless
- -less is also attached to verbs to form adjectives with the meaning "that cannot be'' plus the -ed/en form of the verb;
or "that never'' plus the -s form of the verb:tire + -less → tireless (= that never tires); count + -less → countless (= that cannot be counted).
(les), adv., [a compar. of]little [with]least [as superl.]WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2015
adj., [a compar. of]little [with]least [as superl.]
- to a smaller extent, amount, or degree:less exact.
- most certainly not (often prec. by much or still):He could barely pay for his own lodging, much less for that of his friend.
- in any way different; other:He is nothing less than a thief.
- Idiomsless than, by far short of being;
not in the least;
hardly at all:The job is less than perfect.
- smaller in size, amount, degree, etc.; not so large, great, or much:less money;
- lower in consideration, rank, or importance:no less a person than the manager.
- fewer:less than a dozen.
- a smaller amount or quantity:Hundreds of soldiers arrived, but less of them remained.
- something inferior or not as important:He was tortured for less.
- minus; without:a year less two days;
six dollars less tax.
5 . See small.
Even though less has been used before plural nouns (less words;
Old English lǣs (adverb, adverbial), lǣssa (adjective, adjectival);
cognate with Old Frisian lês (adverb, adverbial), lêssa (adjective, adjectival). See least
less men) since the time of King Alfred, many modern usage guides say that only fewer can be used in such contexts. Less, they say, should modify singular mass nouns (less sugar;
less money) and singular abstract nouns (less honesty;
less love). It should modify plural nouns only when they suggest combination into a unit, group, or aggregation:less than $50(a sum of money); less than three miles (a unit of distance). With plural nouns specifying individuals or readily distinguishable units, the guides say that fewer is the only proper choice:fewer words;
no fewer than 31 of the 50 states.Modern standard English practice does not reflect this distinction. When followed by than, less occurs at least as often as fewer in modifying plural nouns that are not units or groups, and the use of less in this construction is increasing in all varieties of English:less than eight million people; no less than 31 of the 50 states.When not followed by than, fewer is more frequent only in formal written English, and in this construction also the use of less is increasing:This year we have had less crimes, less accidents, and less fires than in any of the last five years.
- an adjective suffix meaning "without'' (childless;
peerless), and in adjectives derived from verbs, indicating failure or inability to perform or be performed (resistless;
- cognate with Old Norse lauss, German los, loose Middle English -les, Old English -lēas, special use of lēas free from, without, false
least /list/USA pronunciation
adj., [a superlative of] little withless orlesser as comparative.WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2015
n. [uncountable; the + ~]
- smallest in size, amount, degree, etc.;
lowest in amount:wasn't paying the least attention.
- something that is least:Your little problem is the least of my worries right now.
- [superl. of]little withless as compar. to the smallest extent, amount, or degree:That's the least important question of all.
- at the lowest estimate or figure:We'll have to pay $500 at least to cover that damage.
- at any rate; in any case:At least she wasn't hurt.
- Idiomsnot in the least, not in the smallest degree:not worried in the least.
- to say the least, This expression is used to express the belief that a situation or circumstance is even worse than stated:The result will be terrible inflation, to say the least.
(lēst), adj., [a superl. of]little withless orlesser as compar.
- smallest in size, amount, degree, etc.;
slightest:He gave the least amount of money of anyone.
- lowest in consideration, position, or importance.
- something that is least; the least amount, quantity, degree, etc.
- Dialect Terms[South Midland U.S.]the youngest in a family or group.
- at the lowest estimate or figure:The repairs will cost at least $100.
- at any rate;
in any case:You didn't get a good grade, but at least you passed the course.Also,at the least.
- Idiomsnot in the least, not in the smallest degree; not at all:I am not in the least concerned about the outcome of the World Series.
- [superl. of]little withless as compar. to the smallest extent, amount, or degree:That's the least important question of all. He talks least.
- Middle English leest(e), Old English lǣst, superlative of lǣssa less bef. 950
Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::
less /lɛs/ determiner
- the comparative of little: less sugar, less spirit than before
- (as pronoun; functioning as sing or plural): she has less than she needs, the less you eat, the less you want
- (usually preceded by no) lower in rank or importance: no less a man than the president, St James the Less
- less of ⇒ to a smaller extent or degree: we see less of John these days, less of a success than I'd hoped
- the comparative of little (sense 1): she walks less than she should, less quickly, less beautiful
Etymology: Old English lǣssa (adj), lǣs (adv, n)USAGE
- subtracting; minus: three weeks less a day
Less should not be confused with fewer. Less refers strictly only to quantity and not to number: there is less water than before. Fewer means smaller in number: there are fewer people than before
'less' also found in these entries: