Share this entry

lest Syllabification: lest

Definition of lest in English:


1With the intention of preventing (something undesirable); to avoid the risk of: he spent whole days in his room, headphones on lest he disturb anyone
More example sentences
  • As to this it is necessary to avoid misapprehension lest the protection be too limited.
  • Those in attendance are asked not to look directly at the panelists, lest you disturb the mood.
  • They are sent to sleep on the streets at night, lest they disturb the mother's business.
1.1(After a clause indicating fear) because of the possibility of something undesirable happening; in case: she sat up late worrying lest he be held up on the way home
More example sentences
  • The economy suffers, as my sisters and brothers fear going to work lest they find a bullet in their mailbox.
  • Portia immediately fell in love with him and feared lest he should choose the wrong box.
  • If I had been less cautious I might have been more wise, but I was half crazy with fear lest you should learn the truth.


Old English thȳ lǣs the 'whereby less that', later the læste.


There are very few contexts in English where the subjunctive mood is, strictly speaking, required: lest remains one of them. Thus the standard use is she was worrying lest he be attacked (not lest he was attacked), or she is using headphones lest she disturb anyone (not lest she disturbs anyone). See also subjunctive.

Words that rhyme with lest

abreast, arrest, attest, beau geste, behest, bequest, best, blessed, blest, breast, Brest, Bucharest, Budapest, celeste, chest, contest, crest, digest, divest, guest, hest, infest, ingest, jest, Midwest, molest, nest, northwest, pest, prestressed, protest, quest, rest, self-addressed, self-confessed, self-possessed, southwest, suggest, test, Trieste, unaddressed, unexpressed, unimpressed, unpressed, unstressed, vest, west, wrest, zest

Definition of lest in:

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.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day fortissimo
Pronunciation: fôrˈtisəˌmō
(especially as a direction) very loud or loudly