Green’s Dictionary of Slang

few, a n.

1. (a good) many; a great deal.

[UK]A. Murphy Citizen (1809) 26: Mind me when I go to work — throw my eyes about a few — handle the braces.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Jorrocks Jaunts (1874) 114: Stranger. What! you hunt, do you?Jorrocks. A few--you've perhaps heard tell of the Surrey ’unt?

2. someone extreme in manner.

[US]W.C. Hall ‘Mike Hooter’s Bar Story’ Spirit of the Times 26 Jan. (N.Y.) 581: It was that feller Arch Cooly [...] Didn’t you know that ar’ hoss fly? He’s a few! well he is. Jewhilliken! how he could whip er nigger! and swar!! whew!

3. a number, unspecified, of drinks; usu. as have a few

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 211: I took a few then and there before breakfast.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Aug. 15/1: He had driven into town, and had ‘met a few.’ I was asked by some of his friends to drive him home. And Simpson talked, turning his bleary eyes on me.
[US]R. Lardner You Know Me Al (1984) 88: I wish I was lifting a few with you to-night.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson Shearer’s Colt 90: He’s a fine chap, but he can’t carry too much and when he gets a few in he wants to fight somebody.
[Aus]G. Hamilton Summer Glare 50: The fathers returned home after their Saturday afternoon ‘few’.
[Aus]A. Seymour One Day of the Year (1977) II iii: Y’r gettin’ carried away. Just because a coupla blokes get a few in—.
[Aus]J. Hibberd Dimboola (2000) 70: Let’s crack a few.
[UK]F. Norman Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 171: There was nothing new in Scotland Yard hacks knocking back a few with the chaps.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids (1989) 23: I think you’ve had a few, haven’t you?
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 77: few, a Too many beers; have a few in, drunk. ANZ from early C20.

4. (US prison) a short prison sentence.

[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 248: Few. Less than fifteen days. [Ibid.] 266: The month that has twenty-nine days in it is no longer counted as such, and if he has done one day of the last year his time is now ‘eleven and a few,’ or eleven months and a part of the twelfth.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 68/2: Few, a. A very short sentence; as days, in a workhouse; months, in a county penitentiary; two or three years in a prison.

5. a short time, i.e. a few minutes.

[US]G. Pelecanos Right As Rain 84: Back in a few.

In phrases

have a few (v.) (also have a few in)

(orig. Aus.) to have a few drinks; thus have a few too many v., to be drunk (cf. have one too many under one n.1 ).

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 9 Aug. 35/1: ‘Come an’ have a drink, missus.’ / ‘I don’t mind if I do have a lemonade,’ she said, bashfully. / She had evidently ‘had a few’ already, by the scent in her breath.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 Aug. 47/1: [O]ne night, when I ’ad a few in, a couple of Johns got onto a cobber of mine, an’ I stuck fer ’im and stoushed one of the cops.
[UK]J.B. Priestley Good Companions 210: Let me ’ave a few or a bit o’ tinned salmon last thing, and I’m off, all night. [Ibid.] 422: I saw yon Morton Mitcham coming out of a pub and I could see he’d had a few.
[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 240: He was like me, he’d had a few.
[NZ]F. Sargeson ‘Big Ben’ in Coll. Stories (1965) 125: With a few in even Ben’s wife would have something to say. [Ibid.] ‘That Summer’ 149: So we got to the pub and we both had a good few in by closing time. [Ibid.] ‘That Summer’ 175: Even his missis came and had a few.
[UK]C. Harris Death of a Barrow Boy 178: Well, ’e’d ’ad more’n a few when ’e left the Arms.
[UK]T. Keyes All Night Stand 55: I have a few [...] and I get carried away and the old fists start flailing.
[US](con. 1940s) M. Dibner Admiral (1968) 233: He half-supported his bleached blond and bosomy wife who had already had a few too many.
[UK]D. Davin Breathing Spaces 10: He’s had a few in, all right.
[UK]A. Payne ‘The Dessert Song’ Minder [TV script] 32: This geezer used to put a roof slate on the bar after he’d had a few, then smash it with his forehead.
[UK]F. Taylor Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 48: Barry? A boozer? ‘I mean, ’as he had a few from time to time?’.
[US]G. Indiana Rent Boy 52: We’re just hanging out, havin’ a few.
[UK]K. Waterhouse Soho 33: A steep, darkly lit staircase that could have you going arse over tip if you’d had a few.
[NZ]P. Shannon Davey Darling 84: ‘Well, you know I’ve been down to the pub.’ [...] ‘Yeah, Bryce. He was having a few.’.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 191: See you in a few.
put a few back (v.) (also put a few down)

to have a few drinks.

Reggie ‘Beer Rev.’ at [Internet] Not many beers are as refreshing as a wheat, white, or weiss when the mercury passes ninety degrees. We’ve had quite a few days like that lately, so I’ve had plenty of chances to put a few down.
[US]S. Farrell Dallas Morning News 28 Jun. [Internet] The thought is to play the games, then go to sponsoring pubs and put a few back.
Beer Advocate 30 July [Internet] Is there a brew you’ve got saved for today? [...] I’ve got some chores to knock out before I can put a few back.