at least


adjective a superl. of little with less or lesser as compar.
smallest in size, amount, degree, etc.; slightest: He gave the least amount of money of anyone.
lowest in consideration, position, or importance.
something that is least; the least amount, quantity, degree, etc.
South Midland U.S. the youngest in a family or group.
adverb superl. of little with less as compar.
to the smallest extent, amount, or degree: That's the least important question of all. He talks least.
at least,
at the lowest estimate or figure: The repairs will cost at least $100.
at any rate; in any case: You didn't get a good grade, but at least you passed the course.
Also, at the least.
not in the least, not in the smallest degree; not at all: I am not in the least concerned about the outcome of the World Series.

before 950; Middle English leest(e), Old English lǣst, superlative of lǣssa less

least, lest, let's. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
least (liːst)
1.  a.  the least the superlative of little : you have the least talent of anyone
 b.  (as pronoun; functioning as sing): least isn't necessarily worst
2.  at least
 a.  if nothing else: you should at least try
 b.  at the least
3.  at the least, at least at the minimum: at the least you should earn a hundred pounds
4.  (usually used with a negative) in the least in the slightest degree; at all: I don't mind in the least
5.  the least superlative of little : they travel the least of all
6.  of very little importance or rank
[Old English lǣst, superlative of lǣssaless]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. læst, earlier læsest "smallest" (superlative of læs "smaller, less"), from P.Gmc. *laisistaz. Qualifying phrase at least is M.E. æt læstan. Colloquial leastways (1825), regarded as vulgar is simply a one-word form of Chaucer's leest weye (late 14c.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

at least

  1. Also, at the least. According to the lowest possible assessment, no less than. For example, At least a dozen more chairs are needed, or The job will take four hours at the least. [c. 1050]

  2. Anyway, anyhow, as in At least you got there on time, or The children enjoyed the dessert at least. [c. 1050] For synonyms, see at any rate; in any case.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Idioms & Phrases
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