See also: 'least

English edit

Etymology 1 edit

From Middle English leste, lest, last, from Old English lǣst, a contraction of læsast, læsest, lærest (least), from Proto-Germanic *laisistaz (smallest; least), related to Old English læs (less). Cognate with Old Frisian leist, Old Saxon lēs. More at less.

Pronunciation edit

Determiner edit

least (comparative less)

  1. The most little; the smallest amount or quantity of something.
    He earns the least money in his family.   Of all the sisters, she has the least patience.   I can only afford to pay the least of the bills.  I'm giving (the) least of all towards her present.
    • 1857, Edmund March Blunt, The American Coast Pilot: Containing Directions for the Principal Harbors, E. & G.W. Blunt, page 135:
      The least water we could find there was 4 fathoms, which bears from the point S.E., and is distant 1½ mile.
    • 1847, John Duncan, Duncan's Travels:
      To have demolished and rebuilt the walls, would have been a very costly expedient, and as the least of two evils, the painter's brush was resorted to; here and there however, above some of the windows, the black wreathings of the smoke are still discernible through the white covering.
    • 1913, Joseph C[rosby] Lincoln, chapter V, in Mr. Pratt’s Patients, New York, N.Y., London: D[aniel] Appleton and Company, →OCLC:
      “Well,” I says, “I cal'late a body could get used to Tophet if he stayed there long enough.” ¶ She flared up; the least mite of a slam at Doctor Wool was enough to set her going.
    • 1959, Georgette Heyer, chapter 1, in The Unknown Ajax:
      Charles had not been employed above six months at Darracott Place, but he was not such a whopstraw as to make the least noise in the performance of his duties when his lordship was out of humour.
    • 1960 December, “The first hundred 25 kV a.c. electric locomotives for B.R.”, in Trains Illustrated, page 727:
      Comparison of the four bogie designs shows that the Rugby-built A.E.I. bogie has the least number of components and a minimum of metallic wearing surfaces.
    • 2004, Jim Baggott, Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy, and the Meaning of Quantum Theory, Oxford University Press, page 48:
      Light does not need to know in advance which is the path of least time because it takes all paths from its source to its destination.
Usage notes edit

Some grammarians recommend to use least only with uncountable nouns, as in the examples above with the smallest amount of sense:

  • 1965, H. W. Fowler, Fowler’s Modern English Usage: Second Edition:
    [W]hen the context—unemotional statement of everyday facts—is taken into account, at a less price ought to be at a lower price, and a lesser prize ought to be a smaller prize.

To such grammarians least is the superlative of a little, not that of little, so it does not mean smallest, but the smallest amount of. With plural nouns, they recommend fewest. However, other authorities disagree; the OED lists least as a synonym of fewest without any usage notes discussing this meaning.[1]

Translations edit

Adverb edit

least (negative superlative)

  1. Used for forming superlatives of adjectives, especially those that do not form the superlative by adding -est.
    It was the least surprising thing.
  2. In the smallest or lowest degree; in a degree below all others.
    to reward those who least deserve it
    I never hid the truth, least of all from you.
    I don't much like housework, and I like cooking least.
Antonyms edit
Translations edit

Noun edit

least (plural leasts)

  1. (philosophy) Something of the smallest possible extent; an indivisible unit.

Adjective edit


  1. (archaic, outside of fixed terms) superlative degree of little; smallest

Derived terms edit

Etymology 2 edit

Contraction of at least.

Alternative forms edit

Prepositional phrase edit


  1. (informal, nonstandard) At least.
    • 1876, Mark Twain [pseudonym; Samuel Langhorne Clemens], chapter VI, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Hartford, Conn.: The American Publishing Company, →OCLC, page 65:
      “Why he took and dipped his hand in a rotten stump where the rain water was.” “In the day time?” “Certainly.” “With his face to the stump?” “Yes. Least I reckon so.”
    • 2019 December, Justin Blackburn, The Bisexual Christian Suburban Failure Enlightening Bipolar Blues, page 79:
      What a stupid white privileged POS I am! Least I call myself out.

References edit

  1. ^ least, adj, pron, and n, and adv.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 7 July 2019.

Anagrams edit

Norwegian Nynorsk edit

Alternative forms edit

Verb edit


  1. passive infinitive of le
  2. passive infinitive of lea

Anagrams edit