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Why is there a difference between Worth less and Worthless? I feel like they should mean the same thing, but they don't ironically

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  • Why do you feel they should mean the same thing, and what research have you done to try to find the reasons for the meanings? Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 20:25
  • Can you edit your question and give a sentence for one of them? and then also give the same sentence with the other and see of they are different?
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 21:22
  • A perfect vase is valuable. A chipped one is worth less. A smashed one is worthless.
    – Simon B
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 23:19
  • @Simon B A perfect vase might be priceless. Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 9:32
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 16:41

3 Answers 3

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You are confusing the word less with the suffix -less.

The suffix means "without":

  • A childless couple is one without children.
  • A colorless, odorless, tasteless liquid has no color, odor, or taste.
  • A worthless object has no value or worth.

Less is usually used as an adjective or adverb and is the comparative of little (little, less, least):

  • Six is less than three.
  • Rayon costs less than silk.
  • A house in the suburbs is usually worth less than one in the city.
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  • I would correct your definition of 'less' meaning 'little' .. it is a comparative word associated with relative quantity not a small quantity necessarily. Our galaxy might have less than another galaxy but both have billions of stars
    – Tom22
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 21:05
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    I did not say less means little, but is the comparative of little. Little, less, least should be uncontroversial. Compared to Jupiter, the Earth is a little planet.
    – KarlG
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 21:16
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    @Tom22 I have little to say. He has less to say. She has the least to say of all of us.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 21:24
  • @tchrist yes, but less doesn't tie to little directly. Little is actually making a statement about there being "less than expected" while 'less' is only relative. "more" relates to little just as much as "less" relates to little. I have little to say, he has more to say, and Abe had a ton to say but while he overwhelmed me he still had less to say than that blowhard Dave. Abe had far more than 'little' to say. "less" in that case referred to the second highest amount of volume.
    – Tom22
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 23:54
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    That the comparative can be used in contexts where the things compared do not have the quality described by the positive lies in the nature of comparison itself. Houston has a smaller population than Chicago, but neither have small populations. Smaller still remains the comparative of the positive small.
    – KarlG
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 10:05
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worth less = less valuable

worthless = pointless, senseless or not valuable

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  • I understand, but I'm more curious as to why there is a difference. I know what the difference is. But I just feel like it is a little funny that they sound so similar but are different. I was just wondering if there was any reason for that. Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 20:10
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    If I were to get snarky about it, I would say you have a 'senseless' question. ;) I'm having fun there, but the form of putting 'less' at the end of words means 'without' .... 'baseless' , 'endless' etc. Using two words uses the stand alone meaning of less .. as the opposite of 'more' ... no less than that.
    – Tom22
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 20:54
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Worth less means diminished in value but worthless means of no value at all.

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