Curious Question about 少ない

So usually with い-adjectives, the negative form is 〜くない as in おいしい and おいしくない

So why is 少ない “few” and not “not a few” or “a lot”? Does that make sense?

Just curious if there is a linguistic or perhaps cultural/historical reason for this, or if it’s just one of those weird exceptions you just have to get in your brain. Thanks!

少ない is not a negative form. That’s just the plain adjective.
The negative form is 少なくない, following the standard rules for i-adjective conjugation.

So rather than being a negation of an adjective meaning “few,” this is an adjective meaning “few.” Even though it has ない in there, it’s the affirmative form.


I don’t know about the etimology, but if it helps to get it into your brain, it can be inflected in the negative just like any other i-adjective: 少なくない;

There are quite a few people of this sort.

Example from Weblio.

Edit: beaten to it.

More edit: I can’t think of another adjective ending in -kunai, but there are some that end in -nai, such as _kitanai, tsumaranai etc.

Further edit about the example sentence: the fact that 少なくない is translated as quite a few might throw people off. Perhaps I didn’t choose the best example sentence. A very literal translation of that sentence would be “People of this kind are not few.”


The く part of くない in 少ない is not okurigana, it’s in the kanji. So I guess that indicates this is not an adjective conjugated in the negative.


Oh, that’s true, the くない isn’t okurigana. That helps, thanks.

@rodrigowaick Oh I forgot about those other adjectives. Guess this one isn’t so unusual then. Thanks!

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It actually seems that the original form was 少い which would make sense.


危ない (あぶない) confuses me, because my brain wants to go “not dangerous”, which could end up being quite dangerous some day.


A similarly confusing word I came across on is 励ます. That’s the dictionary form, so the polite form is 励まします.

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Oh wow that’s crazy!

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