Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Amounting to or consisting of a small number: one of my few bad habits.
  • adj. Being more than one but indefinitely small in number: bowled a few strings.
  • n. An indefinitely small number of persons or things: A few of the books have torn jackets.
  • n. An exclusive or limited number: the discerning few; the fortunate few.
  • pro. A small number of persons or things: "For many are called, but few are chosen” ( Matthew 22:14).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • An indefinite, but usually small, number of.
  • Not many; a small (in comparison with another number stated or implied) but somewhat indefinite number of.
  • (US?) Obscuring one eighth to two eighths of the sky.
  • (US?) Having a 10 percent chance of measurable precipitation (0.01 inch); used interchangeably with isolated.
  • pro. Few people, few things.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Not many; small, limited, or confined in number; -- indicating a small portion of units or individuals constituting a whole; often, by ellipsis of a noun, a few people.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Not many; a small number; only a small number.
  • n. Not many; only a small number (of persons or things): in this use properly an adjective, used elliptically as a plural noun, and not preceded by the article.
  • n. A small number; a minority: in this sense preceded by the article a (originally in the plural) or the, with or without a noun following, the noun, if used, expressing the whole of which the few are taken, and being in the partitive genitive, with or without the preposition of: as, a few, or a few members, or a few of the members, dissented.
  • n. A small quantity or portion; a little: followed by a noun (without of) in a construction similar to def. 2 and to that of little, n.
  • n. See II., 3.
  • n. Adv. phr. Somewhat; to some slight extent: often used ironically for a good deal.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. a quantifier that can be used with count nouns and is often preceded by `a'; a small but indefinite number
  • n. a small elite group

Etymologies

Middle English fewe, from Old English fēawe.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English fewe ("few"), from Old English fēawa, fēawe, fēa ("few"), from Proto-Germanic *fawaz (“few”), from Proto-Indo-European *ph₁w- (“few, small”). Cognate with Old Saxon  ("few"), Old High German fao, fō ("few, little"), Old Norse fár ("few"), Gothic 𐍆𐌰𐍅𐌰𐌹 (fawai, "few"), Latin paucus ("little, few"). More at poor. (Wiktionary)

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