Is there an expression that means the following:

It is better to have less of something that is of best quality than having more of something that is of low quality.

  • 2
    "Quality before quantity." – KarlG Jan 21 '18 at 11:58
  • @KarlG good one, but doesn't convey the message quite fully. – user277433 Jan 21 '18 at 12:06
  • Actually, it does. It's a quite familiar saying, a cliche even, reduced to its bare essentials. Google the phrase as phrase and see how versatile it is. Your sentence just takes seven times more words to say the same thing. – KarlG Jan 21 '18 at 12:12
  • @Lawrence it does indeed reference quantity - hence the words "less of something" and "more of something". – user277433 Jan 22 '18 at 6:20
  • @KarlG I've realized that your expression is indeed spot on in many different respects. If you will make an answer to this question (not just a comment), I will mark your answer as accepted. Also, I think "Quality over quantity" is a tad bit better. – user277433 Jan 22 '18 at 6:29

Non refert quam multos sed quam bonos habeas.

It doesn't matter how many you have, but how good.Seneca, Moral epistles to Lucilius XLV

This line from Seneca, who is merely discussing the books in his friend's library and not likely aiming for the level of universal truth, has been hammered into a maxim in various vernaculars:

It is quality rather than quantity that matters.

The moderns who translated — or mistranslated — Seneca, surrounded as they were after the Industrial Revolution with shoddily manufactured goods of dubious quality, had far more reason to praise quality over quantity in the abstract than a Latin writer in Late Antiquity.

Of course English speakers could express a preference of quality before quantity any number of ways: quality not quantity, quality before quantity, quality instead of quantity, etc. depending on what weakly metaphoric sense the verb would take. One might put quality before quantity, or choose quality over/instead of quantity. There appears to have been no strong preference for one over the other until the 1970s, when Quality over Quantity seems to have become the maxim modern translators read into Seneca.

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In the age of internet memes, "Quality over quantity" also has the advantage of being easily expressed graphically:


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