few and far between

few

[fyoo]
adjective, fewer, fewest.
1.
not many but more than one: Few artists live luxuriously.
noun
2.
(used with a plural verb) a small number or amount: Send me a few.
3.
the few, a special, limited number; the minority: That music appeals to the few.
pronoun
4.
(used with a plural verb) a small number of persons or things: A dozen people volunteered, but few have shown up.
Idioms
5.
few and far between, at widely separated intervals; infrequent: In Nevada the towns are few and far between.
6.
quite a few, a fairly large number; many: There were quite a few interesting things to do.

Origin:
before 900; Middle English fewe, Old English fēawe; cognate with Gothic fawai; akin to Latin paucus few, paulus little, pauper poor, Greek paûros little, few

overfew, adjective
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
few (fjuː)
 
determiner
1.  a.  a small number of; hardly any: few men are so cruel
 b.  (as pronoun; functioning as plural): many are called but few are chosen
2.  (preceded by a)
 a.  a small number of: a few drinks
 b.  (as pronoun; functioning as plural): a few of you
3.  informal a good few several
4.  few and far between
 a.  at great intervals; widely spaced
 b.  not abundant; scarce
5.  have a few, have a few too many to consume several (or too many) alcoholic drinks
6.  informal not a few, quite a few several
 
n
7.  the few Compare many a small number of people considered as a class: the few who fell at Thermopylae
 
[Old English fēawa; related to Old High German fao little, Old Norse fār little, silent]
 
 
'fewness
 
n

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

few
O.E. feawe (contracted to fea), from Gmc. *faw- (cf. O.N. far, Dan. faa, O.Fris. fe, O.H.G. foh "little," Goth. fawai "few"), from PIE *pau- "smallness" (cf. L. paucus "few, little," paullus "little," pauper "poor;" Gk. pauros "few, little," pais (gen. paidos) "child;" L. puer "child, boy," pullus "young
animal;" Oscan puklu "child;" Skt. potah "a young animal," putrah "son;" O.C.S. puta "bird;" Lith. putytis "young animal, young bird"). Always plural in O.E. Phrase few and far between attested from 1668. Unusual ironic use in quite a few "many" (1883), earlier a good few (1828).
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." [Winston Churchill, 1940]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

few and far between

At wide intervals, scarce, as in Supporters of the amendment are few and far between. This expression originally was used very literally for physical objects such as houses appearing at widely separated intervals. Today it is also used more loosely. [Mid-1600s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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