at worst, if the worst happens; under the worst conditions: He will be expelled from school, at worst.Also at the worst.
    get the worst of something, to be defeated by; lose: to get the worst of a fight.
    if worst comes to worst, if the very worst happens: If worst comes to worst, we still have some money in reserve.
    in the worst way, Informal. in an extreme degree; very much: She wanted a new robe for Christmas in the worst way.Also the worst way.

Origin of worst

before 900; Middle English worste (adj., adv., and noun), Old English wur(re)sta, wyr(re)st, wer(re)sta (adj. and adv.); cognate with Old Norse verstr; see worse, -est1
Can be confusedworst wurst Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for at worst



the superlative of bad 1


in the most extreme or bad manner or degree
least well, suitably, or acceptably
(in combination) in or to the smallest degree or extent; leastworst-loved


the worst the least good or most inferior person, thing, or part in a group, narrative, etc
(often preceded by at) the most poor, unpleasant, or unskilled quality or conditiontelevision is at its worst these days
the greatest amount of damage or wickedness of which a person or group is capablethe invaders came and did their worst
the weakest effort or poorest achievement that a person or group is capable of makingthe applicant did his worst at the test because he did not want the job
the worst
  1. in the least favourable interpretation or view
  2. under the least favourable conditions
if the worst comes to the worst if all the more desirable alternatives become impossible or if the worst possible thing happens
come off worst or get the worst of it to enjoy the least benefit from an issue or be defeated in it


(tr) to get the advantage over; defeat or beat

Word Origin for worst

Old English wierrest; related to Old Frisian wersta, Old Saxon, Old High German wirsisto, Old Norse verstr
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 worst



Old English wyrresta, from Proto-Germanic *wers-ista- (cf. Old Saxon wirsista, Old Norse verstr, Old Frisian wersta, Old High German wirsisto), superlative of PIE *wers- "to confuse, mix up" (see worse). Phrase in the worst way (1839) is from American English sense of "most severely."



"damage, inflict loss upon," c.1600, from worst (adj.). Related: Worsted; worsting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with at worst

at worst

Also, at the worst.


In the least favorable circumstance; under the most difficult conditions. For example, Convicted of taking a bribe, the official believed that at worst he would be sentenced to a few months in prison. [1500s]


In the least favorable view or supposition, as in No harm done; at the worst I'll copy the tax return again. Chaucer used this sense in Troilus and Cressida: “For at the worst, it may yet short our way.” [Late 1300s] For the antonym, see at best.


see at worst; get (have) the worst of it; if worst comes to worst; in the worst way. Also see under worse.

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