AskDefine | Define least

Dictionary Definition

least adj
1 the superlative of `little' that can be used with mass nouns and is usually preceded by `the'; a quantifier meaning smallest in amount or extent or degree; "didn't care the least bit"; "he has the least talent of anyone" [syn: least(a)] [ant: most(a)]
2 minimal in magnitude; "lowest wages"; "the least amount of fat allowed"; "the smallest amount" [syn: lowest, smallest]
3 having or being distinguished by diminutive size; "the least bittern" [syn: littlest, smallest] adv : used to form the superlative; "The garter snake is the least dangerous snake" [syn: to the lowest degree] [ant: most]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

  • /liːst/, /li:st/
  • Rhymes: -iːst

Homophones

Determiner

(comparative less)
  1. The comparative of 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.
    • 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

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.

Adverb

  1. Used for forming superlatives of adjectives, especially those that do not form the superlative by adding -est.
    It was the least surprising thing.

Antonyms

Translations

  • Finnish: vähiten
  • French: moindre; moins
  • Italian: meno

Extensive Definition

Least may refer to:

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

at a disadvantage, at the nadir, below, below the mark, few, homely, humble, humble-looking, humble-visaged, humblest, in the gutter, inglorious, innocuous, least of all, less, littlest, low, lowest, lowliest, lowly, mean, minim, minimum, minority, minority group, modest, plain, poor, short of, shortest, simple, slightest, small, smallest, teachable, the few, the minority, under, under par, undistinguished, unimportant, unpretentious, we happy few
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