- The definition of least is the lowest in importance or the smallest of something.
- An example of least is one penny being the lowest value U.S. coin; the least amount of value.
- An example of least is someone doing the smallest amount of work necessary; the least necessary.
The penny has the least value of United States currency.
- smallest or slightest in size, degree, importance, etc.: the least movement
- Biol. very small: used in names of species or varieties: least flycatcher
Origin of leastMiddle English lest ; from Old English læsest, læst, superlative of læssa, less
- in the smallest degree
at (the) least
- at the very lowest figure or amount; with no less
- at any rate; in any event
not in the least
adjectiveA superlative of little.
- Lowest in importance or rank.
- a. Smallest in magnitude or degree.b. Slightest or tiniest: didn't care the least bit.
adverbSuperlative of little.
Origin of leastMiddle English, from Old English l&aemac;st; see leis-2 in Indo-European roots.
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.
- Used for forming superlatives of adjectives, especially those that do not form the superlative by adding -est.
- It was the least surprising thing.
- In the smallest or lowest degree; in a degree below all others.
- to reward those who least deserve it
Variant of little
adjectivelittler or less or lesser, littlest or least
- small in size; not big, large, or great
- small in amount, number, or degree; not much
- short in duration or distance; brief; not long
- small in importance or power: the rights of the little man
- small in force, intensity, etc.; weak
- trivial; trifling
- lacking in breadth of vision; narrow-minded; illiberal: a little mind
- young: said of children or animals
- younger: her little brother
Origin of littleMiddle English littel ; from Old English lytel (akin to German dialect, dialectal lützel) ; from base of lyt, small (; from Indo-European base an unverified form leud-, to stoop from source Welsh lludded, fatigue), influenced, influence by Old Norse litill, small (akin to Gothic leitils) ; from Indo-European base an unverified form lei-, to decline, be lean from source less
- in a small degree; to a slight extent; only slightly; not much
- not in the least: he little suspects the plot
- small amount, degree, etc.: often used with a and having adverbial force: a little crazy
- not much: little will be done about it
- a short time or distance
little by little
make little of
not a little