Definition of least in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /liːst/

determiner& pronoun

(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
More example sentences
  • 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


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
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • Those who are entitled to tax credits are the least able to afford this delay.


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
More example sentences
  • They were blocking every exit, and Whitehall had at least ten vans full of officers.
  • 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;
as a conservative estimate, at rock-bottom;
more than
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
More example sentences
  • What this means is that the relationship is not going anywhere, at least not in a positive way.
  • Not a plan for action, certainly, but at least a creative push in a positive direction.
  • 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
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • But in the subjective world, I can use this magical view, and, at the very least, believe my eyes.
  • You'll understand if I consider this a load of hog wash, or at the least a terribly limited view of things.
  • We couldn't help reflecting that, in Stirling's time, such a shunt would have meant broken limbs at the very least.

least said, soonest mended

proverb A difficult situation will be resolved more quickly if there is no more discussion of it.
Example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed but that he cannot believe anyone else.
  • 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.

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
More example sentences
  • The attitude of other large bodies in Ireland was, to say the least of it, critical and suspicious.
  • It is, to say the least of it, a welcome refuge from your landlady's ornamental flower-vases.
  • 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.


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

Words that rhyme with least

arriviste, artiste, batiste, beast, dirigiste, east, feast, Mideast, modiste, northeast, piste, priest, southeast, uncreased, unreleased, yeast

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: least

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.