least

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English[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Determiner[edit]

least (comparative less)

  1. superlative form of little: most little;The smallest amount of [something uncountable].
    He earns the least money in his family.   Of all the sisters, she has the least patience.   I can only afford to pay the least of the bills.
    • 1857, Edmund March Blunt, The American Coast Pilot: Containing Directions for the Principal Harbors, E. & G.W. Blunt, page 135:
      The least water we could find there was 4 fathoms, which bears from the point S.E., and is distant 1½ mile.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 5, Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      “Well,” I says, “I cal'late a body could get used to Tophet if he stayed there long enough.” ¶ She flared up; the least mite of a slam at Doctor Wool was enough to set her going.
    • 1959, Georgette Heyer, chapter 1, The Unknown Ajax:
      Charles had not been employed above six months at Darracott Place, but he was not such a whopstraw as to make the least noise in the performance of his duties when his lordship was out of humour.
    • 2004, Jim Baggott, Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy, and the Meaning of Quantum Theory, Oxford University Press, page 48:
      Light does not need to know in advance which is the path of least time because it takes all paths from its source to its destination.

Usage notes[edit]

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.

Translations[edit]

Adverb[edit]

least (negative superlative)

  1. Used for forming superlatives of adjectives, especially those that do not form the superlative by adding -est.
    It was the least surprising thing.
  2. In the smallest or lowest degree; in a degree below all others.
    to reward those who least deserve it

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