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[fyoo-er] /ˈfyu ər/
of a smaller number:
fewer words and more action.
(used with a plural verb) a smaller number:
Fewer have come than we hoped.
Origin of fewer
Middle English fewere, Old English *fēawran. See few, -er4
Can be confused
fewer, less (see usage note at less)
Usage note
See less.


[fyoo] /fyu/
adjective, fewer, fewest.
not many but more than one:
Few artists live luxuriously.
(used with a plural verb) a small number or amount:
Send me a few.
the few, a special, limited number; the minority:
That music appeals to the few.
(used with a plural verb) a small number of persons or things:
A dozen people volunteered, but few have shown up.
few and far between, at widely separated intervals; infrequent:
In Nevada the towns are few and far between.
quite a few, a fairly large number; many:
There were quite a few interesting things to do.
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
Related forms
overfew, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for fewer
  • They usually cover me with their own blood, and give up fewer seeds for the effort than it's worth.
  • There are about thirty in the upper eyelid, and somewhat fewer in the lower.
  • His characters, though fewer in number, appear more varied and less earthbound than theirs.
  • The amusing side is that the sooner there are no fewer the more certain is the necessity dwindled.
  • The less a tourist knows, the fewer mistakes he need make, for he will not expect himself to explain ignorance.
  • fewer possess virtue, than those who wish us to believe that they possess it.
  • There are no fewer than seven flagpoles for the running up of ideas.
  • They had fewer nightmares and flashbacks in their daily lives long after the effects of the drug had worn off.
  • There are fewer than a dozen in existence, and all claim the honor.
  • In a society that's becoming more stratified, a sensible tax system should draw more distinctions, not fewer.
British Dictionary definitions for fewer


  1. a small number of; hardly any: few men are so cruel
  2. (as pronoun; functioning as plural): many are called but few are chosen
(preceded by a)
  1. a small number of: a few drinks
  2. (as pronoun; functioning as plural): a few of you
(informal) a good few, several
few and far between
  1. at great intervals; widely spaced
  2. not abundant; scarce
have a few, have a few too many, to consume several (or too many) alcoholic drinks
(informal) not a few, quite a few, several
the few, a small number of people considered as a class: the few who fell at Thermopylae Compare many (sense 4)
Derived Forms
fewness, noun
Word Origin
Old English fēawa; related to Old High German fao little, Old Norse fār little, silent
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for fewer



Old English feawe (plural; contracted to fea) "few, seldom, even a little," from Proto-Germanic *faw-, from PIE root *pau- (1) "few, little" (cf. Latin paucus "few, little," paullus "little," parvus "little, small," pauper "poor;" Greek pauros "few, little," pais (genitive paidos) "child;" Latin puer "child, boy," pullus "young animal;" Oscan puklu "child;" Sanskrit potah "a young animal," putrah "son;" Old English fola "young horse;" Old Norse fylja "young female horse;" Old Church Slavonic puta "bird;" Lithuanian putytis "young animal, young bird"). Always plural in Old English.

Phrase few and far between attested from 1660s. Unusual ironic use in quite a few "many" (1883), earlier a good few (1828). The noun is late 12c., fewe, from the adjective.

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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Idioms and Phrases with fewer
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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