"few and far between" meaning

10

I checked the dictionary for the meaning of this expression. It means "not very many or not appearing very frequently".

Can anybody decompose this structure and justify why the expression gets this meaning? Especially, what is the "far between" part meaning here?

Thanks

qartal

Posted 2015-02-09T07:27:30.363

Reputation: 899

Answers

21

This sentence:

In the desert, gas stations are few and far between.

means that there are few gas stations in the desert, and there is a lot of space between any two gas stations. In other words, there are few gas stations and they are widely dispersed. Far between refers to the distance between the gas stations.

I'm a native speaker, and I found this expression confusing for many years. But it does make sense.

Ben Kovitz

Posted 2015-02-09T07:27:30.363

Reputation: 25 752

9That's a good example of how the expression can be completely literal. Figurative meanings (e.g. "honest politicians are few and far between") then follow from that. +1 – Tim Pederick – 2015-02-09T07:53:31.317

1

Checking other dictionaries might have helped you better! :)

The FreeDictionary has an entry for that:

few and far between: very few; few and widely scattered.

Collins:

at great intervals; widely spaced

Yes, it does talk about having distances as well.

Maulik V

Posted 2015-02-09T07:27:30.363

Reputation: 66 188