Definition of least in English:


determiner & pronoun

  • Smallest in amount, extent, or significance.

    [as determiner] ‘who has the least money?’
    not least
    and → at least
    ‘he never had the least idea what to do about it’
    [as pronoun] ‘how others see me is the least of my worries’
    ‘it's the least I can do’
    • ‘Thomson's theorem states that electrically charged particles arrange themselves so as to have the least energy.’
    • ‘Everyone knows what has to be done and how it is to be done with the least civil disruption.’
    slightest, smallest, minimum, minimal, minutest, tiniest, littlest
    View synonyms


  • To the smallest extent or degree.

    ‘my best routine was the one I had practised the least’
    ‘turning up when he was least expected’
    ‘only the least expensive lot sold’
    ‘I never hid the truth, least of all from you’
    • ‘As the drivers of old bangers are the least able to afford to invest heavily in a new car, this policy seems unfair.’
    • ‘Not the least remarkable thing about the internet is that it is awash with altruism.’
    • ‘There is a perception that Milan have the least arduous route to the final.’
    • ‘He seems sincerely to want to find something to warm to in the least likeable of his subjects.’
    • ‘The Indian samosa is the lone vegetarian offering, and the least messy to eat on the go.’
    • ‘Surprisingly, Freddie came out as the least bizarre of all of us on this, as what you see tends to be what you get with her.’
    • ‘Or maybe we could put all the most commonly used letters at the start and the least common ones at the end.’
    • ‘This was, and still is, one of the least known of the wartime special regiments.’
    • ‘Let us assure you that this was the least political meeting we have ever attended.’
    • ‘The scale has five levels with one being the least serious and five the most serious.’
    • ‘The least treacherous way out of the impasse is a compromise that can be justified by the demands of the time.’
    • ‘Paragliders are not cheap, though they represent one of the least expensive ways to get into the air.’
    • ‘I do no think he will feel the least uncomfortable for putting this line into his mouth.’
    • ‘Those who are entitled to tax credits are the least able to afford this delay.’
    • ‘It also points out that Croydon's system is the least costly of the tram networks mentioned.’
    • ‘Of all the tournaments in which the Scots will bid for glory this year, this may be the least prestigious.’
    • ‘She's just about the the least interesting character they've ever had in there.’
    • ‘The most virtuous of mothers can be putty in the hands of the least virtuous of sons.’
    • ‘Why, then, do we continue to use the motifs of the Great War, the least defensible of all wars?’
    • ‘The first site is the biggest collection of jars in one place, but also somehow the least atmospheric.’


  • Used in names of very small animals and plants, e.g. least shrew.


  • at least

    • 1Not less than; at the minimum.

      ‘clean the windows at least once a week’
      • ‘I see many blokes my age around, carrying at least as much weight and full of vim and vigour.’
      • ‘On the whole, though, they can at least be expected to grow along with the economy.’
      • ‘It would appear that if you know at least one full line from a play, you can probably find it online.’
      • ‘They were blocking every exit, and Whitehall had at least ten vans full of officers.’
      • ‘Petunias are easy to grow so long as they are in full sun for at least part of the day.’
      • ‘No one could cheat by swallowing anything whole because we had to chew it all at least five times.’
      • ‘It seemed that our lives then had been happy indeed, or at least, full of hope and content.’
      • ‘He knows what he wants and hopefully he will be allowed at least a full season to put matters straight.’
      • ‘This needs at least four minutes' brewing time to reveal its full array of flavours.’
      • ‘Truth, or at least the whole truth and nothing but the truth, seems way down the list.’
      at the minimum, no less than, not less than
      as a conservative estimate, at rock-bottom
      more than
      View synonyms
    • 2If nothing else (used to add a positive comment about a generally negative situation)

      ‘the options aren't complete, but at least they're a start’
      • ‘What this means is that the relationship is not going anywhere, at least not in a positive way.’
      • ‘The consensus among the Elders is that no one would believe you anyway, or at least not many.’
      • ‘Not a plan for action, certainly, but at least a creative push in a positive direction.’
      • ‘He is also keen to rescue James from his detractors, or at least to give us the whole picture.’
      • ‘Basically, I was going to be in hell for a whole month or at least until I found a new job.’
      • ‘You might be bored stupid and your boss may be a complete cretin, but at least your office is dry.’
    • 3Anyway (used to modify something just stated)

      ‘they seldom complained—officially at least’
  • at the least (or very least)

    • 1(used after amounts) not less than; at the minimum.

      ‘stay ten days at the least’
      • ‘People can view the art at any time the theatre is open and everybody is encouraged to view each exhibition at the least once before it comes down.’
    • 2Taking the most pessimistic or unfavourable view.

      ‘a programme which is, at the very least, excellent PR for the hospital’
      • ‘But, at the least, they are very important even when not decisive.’
      • ‘But in the subjective world, I can use this magical view, and, at the very least, believe my eyes.’
      • ‘We know at the very least that he was one of the last people to speak to her.’
      • ‘When we don't, projects tend to fail, or at the least to be less interesting to us.’
      • ‘At least then he could have tried to dissuade her or, at the very least, adjusted his strategy accordingly.’
      • ‘‘With the president endorsing it, at the very least it makes Americans who have that position more respectable, for lack of a better phrase,’ he said.’
      • ‘You'll understand if I consider this a load of hog wash, or at the least a terribly limited view of things.’
      • ‘Begin in the middle of something, where there's smoke, or, at the very least, a crackle of flame.’
      • ‘The Secretary of State himself considered that the views of the Chief Medical Officer were at the very least relevant.’
      • ‘We couldn't help reflecting that, in Stirling's time, such a shunt would have meant broken limbs at the very least.’
      to put it mildly, putting it mildly, without any exaggeration, at the very least, as an understatement
      View synonyms
  • least said, soonest mended

    • proverb A difficult situation will be resolved more quickly if there is no more discussion of it.

      • ‘Even the opposition does not press the question, and has little to say on the subject, as they too may have exploited the same funds in the past, or intend to in the future - so least said, soonest mended!’
  • not in the least

    • Not in the smallest degree; not at all.

      ‘he was not in the least taken aback’
      • ‘The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed but that he cannot believe anyone else.’
      • ‘We are apt to say - ‘It is not in the least likely that having been through the supreme crisis, I shall turn now to the things of the world.’’
      • ‘He has no very grave quarrel with it; he does not in the least wish to crucify it; only, he cannot believe it.’
      • ‘The land is not in the least bit fertile and yet the cattle herds grow larger and larger.’
      • ‘It was not in the least dignified.’
      • ‘When the coffin was opened the legs of the body were found tied together with yellow ribbon but, more frightening, the body was not in the least decomposed; in fact the face had a rosy complexion, although the course of the bullet that had killed him, from the jaw through the head, was clearly visible.’
      • ‘He was quite abashed at finding herself discovered, and grew very red; but the old nurse was not in the least discomfited.’
      • ‘And it is not in the least implausible - provided you're with us up to now - that the whole kit-and-kaboodle should fight like wildcats before the island is finally freed.’
      • ‘The guy who checked me in could not have been nicer, a really pleasant fellow who was not in the least bit snobby.’
      • ‘The athletes, in the minds of the press and the organizations, are not in the least innocent until proven guilty.’
      by no means, by no manner of means, not at all, in no way, not in the least, not in the slightest, not the least bit, certainly not, absolutely not, definitely not, on no account, under no circumstances
      View synonyms
  • not least

    • In particular; notably.

      ‘there is a great deal at stake, not least in relation to the environment’
  • to say the least (of it)

    • Used as an understatement (implying the reality is more extreme, usually worse)

      ‘his performance was disappointing to say the least’
      • ‘‘It was hit and miss - some stuff was inspired, and some was droppable, to say the least,’ says the source.’
      • ‘Yes; the combination is frank, to say the least of it.’
      • ‘The attitude of other large bodies in Ireland was, to say the least of it, critical and suspicious.’
      • ‘The sentence is a bit weird to say the least.’
      • ‘Besides, the interest which her question had undoubtedly aroused amongst the bystanders was, to say the least of it, embarrassing.’
      • ‘‘The timing is awkward to say the least, which makes me think it'll get resolved,’ he says.’
      • ‘I just thought it seemed a very unfriendly, to say the least of it, way of doing things.’
      • ‘It is, to say the least of it, a welcome refuge from your landlady's ornamental flower-vases.’
      • ‘But on reflection, we find such stories to be outlandish, to say the least of it.’
      • ‘The style is simple and easy, the reasoning logical and sound, and the author's grasp on the profoundest teaching of the Bible is, to say the least of it, unusual and refreshing.’
      to put it mildly, putting it mildly, without any exaggeration, at the very least, as an understatement
      View synonyms


Old English lǣst, lǣsest, of Germanic origin; related to less.