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.
  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.
  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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for at the least


    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
  1. the least superlative of little they travel the least of all
  1. of very little importance or rank

Word Origin for least

Old English lǣst, superlative of lǣssa less
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 at the least



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with at the least

at the least

see under at least.


In addition to the idioms beginning with least

  • least of all
  • least resistance, line of

also see:

  • at least
  • in the least
  • last but not least
  • to say the least
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.