Definition of least in US English:

least

pronoun & determiner

usually the least
  • Smallest in amount, extent, or significance.

    as determiner ‘who has the least money?’
    ‘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’
    • ‘Everyone knows what has to be done and how it is to be done with the least civil disruption.’
    • ‘Thomson's theorem states that electrically charged particles arrange themselves so as to have the least energy.’
    slightest, smallest, minimum, minimal, minutest, tiniest, littlest
    View synonyms

adverb

  • To the smallest extent or degree.

    ‘my best number was the one I had practiced 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’
    • ‘Why, then, do we continue to use the motifs of the Great War, the least defensible of all wars?’
    • ‘I do no think he will feel the least uncomfortable for putting this line into his mouth.’
    • ‘This was, and still is, one of the least known of the wartime special regiments.’
    • ‘The scale has five levels with one being the least serious and five the most serious.’
    • ‘She's just about the the least interesting character they've ever had in there.’
    • ‘As the drivers of old bangers are the least able to afford to invest heavily in a new car, this policy seems unfair.’
    • ‘Paragliders are not cheap, though they represent one of the least expensive ways to get into the air.’
    • ‘The least treacherous way out of the impasse is a compromise that can be justified by the demands of the time.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There is a perception that Milan have the least arduous route to the final.’
    • ‘The Indian samosa is the lone vegetarian offering, and the least messy to eat on the go.’
    • ‘The most virtuous of mothers can be putty in the hands of the least virtuous of sons.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He seems sincerely to want to find something to warm to in the least likeable of his subjects.’
    • ‘The first site is the biggest collection of jars in one place, but also somehow the least atmospheric.’
    • ‘Not the least remarkable thing about the internet is that it is awash with altruism.’
    • ‘Of all the tournaments in which the Scots will bid for glory this year, this may be the least prestigious.’
    • ‘Let us assure you that this was the least political meeting we have ever attended.’

adjective

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

Usage

On the punctuation of least in compound adjectives, see well

Phrases

  • at least

    • 1Not less than; at the minimum.

      ‘clean the windows at least once a week’
      • ‘It seemed that our lives then had been happy indeed, or at least, full of hope and content.’
      • ‘On the whole, though, they can at least be expected to grow along with the economy.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They were blocking every exit, and Whitehall had at least ten vans full of officers.’
      • ‘I see many blokes my age around, carrying at least as much weight and full of vim and vigour.’
      • ‘Truth, or at least the whole truth and nothing but the truth, seems way down the list.’
      • ‘No one could cheat by swallowing anything whole because we had to chew it all at least five times.’
      • ‘It would appear that if you know at least one full line from a play, you can probably find it online.’
      • ‘Petunias are easy to grow so long as they are in full sun for at least part of the day.’
      at the minimum, no less than, not less 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Not a plan for action, certainly, but at least a creative push in a positive direction.’
      • ‘The consensus among the Elders is that no one would believe you anyway, or at least not many.’
      • ‘You might be bored stupid and your boss may be a complete cretin, but at least your office is dry.’
      • ‘What this means is that the relationship is not going anywhere, at least not in a positive way.’
    • 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 unfavorable view.

      ‘a program that is, at the very least, excellent PR for the hospital’
      • ‘The Secretary of State himself considered that the views of the Chief Medical Officer were at the very least relevant.’
      • ‘We know at the very least that he was one of the last people to speak to her.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘At least then he could have tried to dissuade her or, at the very least, adjusted his strategy accordingly.’
      • ‘We couldn't help reflecting that, in Stirling's time, such a shunt would have meant broken limbs at the very least.’
      • ‘When we don't, projects tend to fail, or at the least to be less interesting to us.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘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 liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed but that he cannot believe anyone else.’
      • ‘It was not in the least dignified.’
      • ‘The athletes, in the minds of the press and the organizations, are not in the least innocent until proven guilty.’
      • ‘The land is not in the least bit fertile and yet the cattle herds grow larger and larger.’
      • ‘He was quite abashed at finding herself discovered, and grew very red; but the old nurse was not in the least discomfited.’
      • ‘He has no very grave quarrel with it; he does not in the least wish to crucify it; only, he cannot believe it.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’
      • ‘I just thought it seemed a very unfriendly, to say the least of it, way of doing things.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The attitude of other large bodies in Ireland was, to say the least of it, critical and suspicious.’
      • ‘But on reflection, we find such stories to be outlandish, to say the least of it.’
      • ‘The sentence is a bit weird to say the least.’
      • ‘Yes; the combination is frank, 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.’
      • ‘‘It was hit and miss - some stuff was inspired, and some was droppable, to say the least,’ says the source.’
      • ‘It is, to say the least of it, a welcome refuge from your landlady's ornamental flower-vases.’
      to put it mildly, putting it mildly, without any exaggeration, at the very least, as an understatement
      View synonyms

Origin

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

Pronunciation

least

/list//lēst/