less

[les]
adverb a compar. of little with least as superl.
1.
to a smaller extent, amount, or degree: less exact.
2.
most certainly not (often preceded by much or still ): He could barely pay for his own lodging, much less for that of his friend.
3.
in any way different; other: He is nothing less than a thief.
adjective a compar. of little with least as superl.
4.
smaller in size, amount, degree, etc.; not so large, great, or much: less money; less speed.
5.
lower in consideration, rank, or importance: no less a person than the manager.
6.
fewer: less than a dozen.
noun
7.
a smaller amount or quantity: Hundreds of soldiers arrived, but less of them remained.
8.
something inferior or not as important: He was tortured for less.
preposition
9.
minus; without: a year less two days; six dollars less tax.
Idioms
10.
less than, by far short of being; not in the least; hardly at all: The job is less than perfect.

Origin:
before 900; Middle English; Old English lǣs (adv.), lǣssa (adj.); cognate with Old Frisian lês (adv.), lêssa (adj.). See least

fewer, less (see usage note at the current entry).


4. See small.


Even though less has been used before plural nouns (less words; 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; fewer men; 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.
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World English Dictionary
less (lɛs)
 
determiner
1.  a.  the comparative of little : less sugar; less spirit than before
 b.  (as pronoun; functioning as sing or plural): she has less than she needs; the less you eat, the less you want
2.  (usually preceded by no) lower in rank or importance: no less a man than the president; St James the Less
3.  informal no less used to indicate surprise or admiration, often sarcastic, at the preceding statement: she says she's been to Italy, no less
4.  less of to a smaller extent or degree: we see less of John these days; less of a success than I'd hoped
 
adv
5.  the comparative of little (sense 1): she walks less than she should; less quickly; less beautiful
6.  much less, still less used to reinforce a negative: we don't like it, still less enjoy it
7.  think less of to have a lower opinion of
 
prep
8.  subtracting; minus: three weeks less a day
 
usage  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

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

less
O.E. læs (adv.), læssa (adj.), comp. of læs "small;" from P.Gmc. *laisiz "smaller," from PIE base *loiso- "small" (cf. Lith. liesas "thin"). Formerly also "younger," as a translation of L. minor, a sense now obsolete except in James the Less. Used as a comparative of
little, but not related to it. Lesser (mid-15c.) is a double comparative, "a barbarous corruption of less, formed by the vulgar from the habit of terminating comparatives in -er." [Johnson].
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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FOLDOC
Computing Dictionary

less than definition

character
"<" ASCII character 60.
Common names: ITU-T: less than; bra (">" = ket); left angle; left angle bracket; left broket. Rare: from; read from; suck (">" = blow); comes-from; in; crunch (all from Unix); INTERCAL: angle.
See also greater than.
(1995-03-20)

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

less than

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.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Not all sports are fully funded and many have a scholarship cap of less than
  the number on a sport roster.
Surprisingly, less than half the people in the room raised their hands.
Today, the technology produces less than one tenth of one percent of global
  energy demand.
Despite their scale, each of the jets had come and gone within less than half a
  second.
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