adverb, a compar. of little with least as superl.
- to a smaller extent, amount, or degree: less exact.
- most certainly not (often preceded 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.
adjective, a compar. of little with least as superl.
- smaller in size, amount, degree, etc.; not so large, great, or much: less money; less speed.
- 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.
- less than, by far short of being; not in the least; hardly at all: The job is less than perfect.
- the comparative of little (def. 1) 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 importanceno less a man than the president; St James the Less
- no less informal used to indicate surprise or admiration, often sarcastic, at the preceding statementshe says she’s been to Italy, no less
- less of to a smaller extent or degreewe 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
- much less or still less used to reinforce a negativewe don’t like it, still less enjoy it
- think less of to have a lower opinion of
- subtracting; minusthree weeks less a day
Old English læs (adv.), læssa (adj.), comparative of læs “small;” from Proto-Germanic *lais-izo “smaller” (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian les “less;” Middle Dutch lise “soft, gentle,” German leise “soft”), from PIE root *leis- “small” (cf. Lithuanian liesas “thin”). Formerly also “younger,” as a translation of Latin minor, a sense now obsolete except in James the Less. Used as a comparative of little, but not related to it. The noun is Old English læsse. Not at all or hardly at all. For example, He had a less than favorable view of the matter, or She had a less than adequate grasp of the subject. This expression uses less in the sense of “a smaller quantity, number, or extent than is implied,” a usage dating from about a.d. 1000. The same sense appears in less than no time, a hyperbolic term for a very short time (as in Don’t worry, he’ll be here in less than no time) that dates from about 1800. In addition to the idiom beginning with less