least [ list ] function word ***
Least is the superlative form of little and can be used in the following ways:
as a determiner (followed by an uncountable noun):
He generally takes the path of least resistance. (after the ):
These farming methods cause the least damage to the environment.
as a pronoun (without a following noun):
People will choose the product that costs least. (after the ):
Abe works the hardest, yet he earns the least. (followed by of ):
That's the least of my problems.
as an adverb (after the and before an adjective):
I think you are the least appropriate person for the job. (followed by an adverb):
Production was slowest where time was least efficiently used. (with a verb):
She was kind to me when I least expected it. (after the with a verb):
The money seems to go to the people who need it the least.
as an adjective:
At the least sign of trouble, he gets scared and quits.
1. ) used for referring to a smaller amount than any other amount, or the smallest amount possible:
The President seemed to be the one who knew least about the crisis.
He wonders why his most popular songs are always the ones he spends the least time on.
Of all of us, I think I earn the least.
a ) used for emphasizing how small something is, especially when it is so small that it almost does not exist:
He's a light sleeper and wakes up at the least noise.
You don't have the least notion of how I'm feeling at the moment.
I doubt anything you say will make the least difference to what he does.
b ) used for emphasizing that a particular problem is smaller or less important than other problems:
the least of something: I'll have to pay for the ticket, but that's the least of my worries.
Money is the least of my problems right now.
c ) used for stating the smallest amount that should be done about something, and suggesting that more should really be done:
The least you can do is listen to what I have to say before you reject it completely.
Let me pay for the dinner it's the least I can do.
The least he deserves is a compliment from time to time.
─ opposite MOST
2. ) used for saying that someone or something has less of a particular quality than anyone or anything else:
Hungary is one of the least polluted of the former East-bloc states.
The least confusing route would be to stay on the interstate.
The new taxes will fall on those least able to pay.
3. ) used for saying that someone or something does something less often or to a smaller degree than anyone or anything else:
This chair squeaks the least.
The man who actually won the car is the one who wanted it least.
a ) used for mentioning that something happens less often or to a smaller degree than at any other time:
Troubles come when you least expect them.
at least
1. ) not less than a particular amount or number, and possibly more:
Mr. Gray will remain the director for three years at least.
The disease killed at least 120 people in New England last year.
We are expecting to at least double our money.
at the very least (=not less than and probably much more than): The trip will take a year, at the very least.
2. ) even if nothing else happens or is true:
At least no one can accuse me of hiding the truth.
You might at least have waited for me.
We have reached an agreement that at least gives the company a chance to survive.
at the very least: At the very least the man is guilty of violent behavior.
3. ) used when mentioning an advantage that exists despite the problem or disadvantage you have just mentioned:
A two percent raise is not very much, but at least it's better than nothing.
You lost, but at least you can say you tried.
The work is difficult, but at least the pay is good.
4. ) used when you are saying something that changes or limits what you have just said:
The election will mean the end, or at least the beginning of the end, of the present system.
No one saw anything, or at least they're not talking about it if they did.
(in) the least or (in) the least bit
used for emphasizing a negative statement or question:
I'm not the least surprised that she's leaving.
I'm not teaching anything the least bit challenging anymore, and that is sad.
Weren't you concerned in the least about where your son was?
least of all
used after a negative statement for showing that it applies to a particular person, thing, or group more than any other:
None of us is religious, least of all Jim.
There is not much there to attract tourists, least of all the weather.
not least
used for emphasizing the importance of a particular aspect of a situation:
George is an excellent manager, not least because he is genuinely willing to listen.
Not least among our difficulties is our lack of funding.
to say the least
used for suggesting that something is worse or more extreme than you are saying:
I found him to be a difficult person, to say the least.
Your work isn't very good, to say the least.
=> LAST1 2A

Usage of the words and phrases in modern English. 2013.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Least — (l[=e]st), a. [OE. last, lest, AS. l[=ae]sast, l[=ae]sest, superl. of l[=ae]ssa less. See {Less}, a.] [Used as the superlative of little.] Smallest, either in size or degree; shortest; lowest; most unimportant; as, the least insect; the least… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • least — ► DETERMINER & PRONOUN (usu. the least) ▪ smallest in amount, extent, or significance. ► ADJECTIVE ▪ used in names of very small animals and plants: least shrew. ► ADVERB ▪ to the smallest extent or degree. ● at least Cf. ↑ …   English terms dictionary

  • least — [lēst] adj. [ME lest < OE læsest, læst, superl. of læssa, LESS] 1. alt. superl. of LITTLE 2. smallest or slightest in size, degree, importance, etc. [the least movement] 3. Biol. very small: used in names of species or varieties [least… …   English World dictionary

  • least — 1. Least of all means ‘especially not’ and should only be used in negative contexts: • I am not going to try to play the role of prophet, least of all Jeremiah Listener, 1973. 2. Use less, not least, when contrasting two things: • The latter… …   Modern English usage

  • Least — Least, adv. In the smallest or lowest degree; in a degree below all others; as, to reward those who least deserve it. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • least — least; least·ways; least·wise; …   English syllables

  • Least — Least, conj. See {Lest}, conj. [Obs.] Spenser. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • least — (adj.) O.E. læst, earlier læsest smallest (superlative of lytel small ), from P.Gmc. superlative *laisistaz (see LESS (Cf. less)). Qualifying phrase at least is M.E. æt læstan. As a noun, from early 12c.; as an adverb, c.1200 …   Etymology dictionary

  • Least — may refer to: *Little *Child …   Wikipedia

  • least — index minimal Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

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