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least

[leest]
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adjective, a superl. of little with less or lesser as compar.
  1. smallest in size, amount, degree, etc.; slightest: He gave the least amount of money of anyone.
  2. lowest in consideration, position, or importance.
noun
  1. something that is least; the least amount, quantity, degree, etc.
  2. South Midland U.S. the youngest in a family or group.
adverb superl. of little with less as compar.
  1. to the smallest extent, amount, or degree: That's the least important question of all. He talks least.
Idioms
  1. at least,
    1. at the lowest estimate or figure: The repairs will cost at least $100.
    2. at any rate; in any case: You didn't get a good grade, but at least you passed the course.
    Also at the least.
  2. not in the least, not in the smallest degree; not at all: I am not in the least concerned about the outcome of the World Series.

Origin of least

before 950; Middle English leest(e), Old English lǣst, superlative of lǣssa less
Can be confusedleast lest let's

little

[lit-l]
adjective, lit·tler or less or less·er, lit·tlest or least.
  1. small in size; not big; not large; tiny: a little desk in the corner of the room.
  2. short in duration; not extensive; short; brief: a little while.
  3. small in number: a little group of scientists.
  4. small in amount or degree; not much: little hope.
  5. of a certain amount; appreciable (usually preceded by a): We're having a little difficulty.
  6. being such on a small scale: little farmers.
  7. younger or youngest: He's my little brother.
  8. not strong, forceful, or loud; weak: a little voice.
  9. small in consideration, importance, position, affluence, etc.: little discomforts; tax reductions to help the little fellow.
  10. mean, narrow, or illiberal: a little mind.
  11. endearingly small or considered as such: Bless your little heart!
  12. amusingly small or so considered: a funny little way of laughing.
  13. contemptibly small, petty, mean, etc., or so considered: filthy little political tricks.
adverb, less, least.
  1. not at all (used before a verb): He little knows what awaits him.
  2. in only a small amount or degree; not much; slightly: a little-known work of art; little better than a previous effort.
  3. seldom; rarely; infrequently: We see each other very little.
noun
  1. a small amount, quantity, or degree: They did little to make him comfortable. If you want some ice cream, there's a little in the refrigerator.
  2. a short distance: It's down the road a little.
  3. a short time: Stay here for a little.
Idioms
  1. in little, on a small scale; in miniature: a replica in little of Independence Hall.
  2. little by little, by small degrees; gradually: The water level rose little by little.
  3. make little of,
    1. belittle: to make little of one's troubles.
    2. to understand or interpret only slightly: Scholars made little of the newly discovered text.
  4. not a little, to a great extent; very much; considerably: It tired me not a little to stand for three hours.
  5. think little of, to treat casually; regard as trivial: They think little of driving 50 miles to see a movie.

Origin of little

before 900; Middle English, Old English lȳtel (lȳt few, small + -el diminutive suffix), cognate with Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, Old Norse lītill
Related formslit·tlish [lit-l-ish, lit-lish] /ˈlɪt l ɪʃ, ˈlɪt lɪʃ/, adjectivelit·tle·ness, noun

Synonyms

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1–4. tiny, teeny, wee. Little, diminutive, minute, small refer to that which is not large or significant. Little (the opposite of big ) is very general, covering size, extent, number, quantity, amount, duration, or degree: a little boy; a little time. Small (the opposite of large and of great ) can many times be used interchangeably with little, but is especially applied to what is limited or below the average in size: small oranges. Diminutive denotes (usually physical) size that is much less than the average or ordinary; it may suggest delicacy: the baby's diminutive fingers; diminutive in size but autocratic in manner. Minute suggests that which is so tiny it is difficult to discern, or that which implies attentiveness to the smallest details: a minute quantity; a minute exam.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for least

least

determiner
    1. the least the superlative of little you have the least talent of anyone
    2. (as pronoun; functioning as sing)least isn't necessarily worst
  1. at least
    1. if nothing elseyou should at least try
    2. at the least
  2. at the least or at least at the minimumat the least you should earn a hundred pounds
  3. in the least (usually used with a negative) in the slightest degree; at allI don't mind in the least
adverb
  1. the least superlative of little they travel the least of all
adjective
  1. of very little importance or rank

Word Origin

Old English lǣst, superlative of lǣssa less

little

determiner
  1. (often preceded by a)
    1. a small quantity, extent, or duration ofthe little hope there is left; very little milk
    2. (as pronoun)save a little for me
  2. not muchlittle damage was done
  3. make little of See make of (def. 3)
  4. not a little
    1. very
    2. a lot
  5. quite a little a considerable amount
  6. think little of to have a low opinion of
adjective
  1. of small or less than average size
  2. younga little boy; our little ones
  3. endearingly familiar; dearmy husband's little ways
  4. contemptible, mean, or disagreeableyour filthy little mind
  5. (of a region or district) resembling another country or town in miniaturelittle Venice
  6. little game a person's secret intention or businessso that's his little game!
  7. no little considerable
adverb
  1. (usually preceded by a) in a small amount; to a small extent or degree; not a lotto laugh a little
  2. (used preceding a verb) not at all, or hardlyhe little realized his fate
  3. not much or oftenwe go there very little now
  4. little by little by small degrees

Word Origin

Old English lӯtel; related to lӯr few, Old High German luzzil
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for least

adj.

Old English læst, earlier læsest "smallest" (superlative of lytel "small"), from Proto-Germanic superlative *laisistaz (see less). Qualifying phrase at least is Middle English æt læstan. As a noun, from early 12c.; as an adverb, c.1200.

little

adj.

Old English lytel "not large, not much; short in distance or time; unimportant," also used in late Old English as a noun, "small piece; a short time," from West Germanic *lutilla- (cf. Old Saxon luttil, Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, German lützel, Gothic leitils "little"), perhaps originally a diminutive of the root of Old English lyt "little, few," from PIE *leud- "small." "Often synonymous with small, but capable of emotional implications which small is not" [OED].

Phrase the little woman "wife" attested from 1795. Little people "the faeries" is from 1726; as "children," it is attested from 1752; as "ordinary people" (opposed to the great), it is attested from 1827. Little Neck clams (1884) are so called for Little Neck, Long Island, a "neck" of land on the island's North Shore. Little by little is from late 15c. (litylle be litille). Little green men "space aliens" is from 1950. Little black dress is from 1939.

At the beginning of summer, smart women who stay in town like to wear sheer "little black dresses." Because most "little black dresses" look alike, retailers struggle each year to find something which will make them seem new. ["Life," June 13, 1939]

Little Orphan Annie originally was (as Little Orphant Annie) the character in James Whitcomb Riley's 1885 poem, originally titled "Elf Child." The U.S. newspaper comic strip created by Harold Gray (1894-1968) debuted in 1924 in the New York "Daily News."

LITTLE Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you
Don't
Watch
Out!

[Riley, "Elf Child"]

little

v.

OE lytlian, from root of little (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with least

least

In addition to the idioms beginning with least

also see:

little

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.