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least

[leest] /list/
adjective, a superl. of little with less or lesser as compar.
1.
smallest in size, amount, degree, etc.; slightest:
He gave the least amount of money of anyone.
2.
lowest in consideration, position, or importance.
noun
3.
something that is least; the least amount, quantity, degree, etc.
4.
South Midland U.S. the youngest in a family or group.
adverb, superl. of little with less as compar.
5.
to the smallest extent, amount, or degree:
That's the least important question of all. He talks least.
Idioms
6.
at least,
  1. at the lowest estimate or figure:
    The repairs will cost at least $100.
  2. at any rate; in any case:
    You didn't get a good grade, but at least you passed the course.
Also, at the least.
7.
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.
Origin
950
before 950; Middle English leest(e), Old English lǣst, superlative of lǣssa less
Can be confused
least, lest, let's.

little

[lit-l] /ˈlɪt l/
adjective, littler or less or lesser, littlest or least.
1.
small in size; not big; not large; tiny:
a little desk in the corner of the room.
2.
short in duration; not extensive; short; brief:
a little while.
3.
small in number:
a little group of scientists.
4.
small in amount or degree; not much:
little hope.
5.
of a certain amount; appreciable (usually preceded by a):
We're having a little difficulty.
6.
being such on a small scale:
little farmers.
7.
younger or youngest:
He's my little brother.
8.
not strong, forceful, or loud; weak:
a little voice.
9.
small in consideration, importance, position, affluence, etc.: little discomforts;
tax reductions to help the little fellow.
10.
mean, narrow, or illiberal:
a little mind.
11.
endearingly small or considered as such:
Bless your little heart!
12.
amusingly small or so considered:
a funny little way of laughing.
13.
contemptibly small, petty, mean, etc., or so considered:
filthy little political tricks.
adverb, less, least.
14.
not at all (used before a verb):
He little knows what awaits him.
15.
in only a small amount or degree; not much; slightly: a little-known work of art;
little better than a previous effort.
16.
seldom; rarely; infrequently:
We see each other very little.
noun
17.
a small amount, quantity, or degree: They did little to make him comfortable.
If you want some ice cream, there's a little in the refrigerator.
18.
a short distance:
It's down the road a little.
19.
a short time:
Stay here for a little.
Idioms
20.
in little, on a small scale; in miniature:
a replica in little of Independence Hall.
21.
little by little, by small degrees; gradually:
The water level rose little by little.
22.
make little of,
  1. belittle:
    to make little of one's troubles.
  2. to understand or interpret only slightly:
    Scholars made little of the newly discovered text.
23.
not a little, to a great extent; very much; considerably:
It tired me not a little to stand for three hours.
24.
think little of, to treat casually; regard as trivial:
They think little of driving 50 miles to see a movie.
Origin
before 900; Middle English, Old English lȳtel (lȳt few, small + -el diminutive suffix), cognate with Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, Old Norse lītill
Related forms
littlish
[lit-l-ish, lit-lish] /ˈlɪt l ɪʃ, ˈlɪt lɪʃ/ (Show IPA),
adjective
littleness, noun
Synonyms
1–4. tiny, teeny, wee. Little, diminutive, minute, small refer to that which is not large or significant. Little (the opposite of big ) is very general, covering size, extent, number, quantity, amount, duration, or degree: a little boy; a little time. Small (the opposite of large and of great ) can many times be used interchangeably with little, but is especially applied to what is limited or below the average in size: small oranges. Diminutive denotes (usually physical) size that is much less than the average or ordinary; it may suggest delicacy: the baby's diminutive fingers; diminutive in size but autocratic in manner. Minute suggests that which is so tiny it is difficult to discern, or that which implies attentiveness to the smallest details: a minute quantity; a minute exam.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for least
  • At least two prehistoric cultures had developed forms of surgery.
  • Despite this, for a while at least, it still acquired some notoriety all of its own.
  • This is an oversimplification, or at least a little misleading.
  • All verbs contain at least a pronominal prefix and a verb base.
  • The council was designed to meet at least three times per year.
  • This continued the tradition of presenting at least two generations of heirs.
  • His pool game is also reproduced, at least in part, in some of his films.
  • They also revealed that at least one subject had died after administration of lsd.
  • Ghb has at least two distinct binding sites in the central nervous system.
  • They then formed a church and nearly every family had at least one member.
British Dictionary definitions for least

least

/liːst/
determiner
1.
  1. the least, the superlative of little you have the least talent of anyone
  2. (as pronoun; functioning as sing): least isn't necessarily worst
2.
at least
  1. if nothing else: you should at least try
  2. 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
adverb
5.
the least, superlative of little they travel the least of all
adjective
6.
of very little importance or rank
Word Origin
Old English lǣst, superlative of lǣssaless

little

/ˈlɪtəl/
determiner
1.
(often preceded by a)
  1. a small quantity, extent, or duration of: the little hope there is left, very little milk
  2. (as pronoun): save a little for me
2.
not much: little damage was done
3.
make little of, See make of (sense 3)
4.
not a little
  1. very
  2. a lot
5.
quite a little, a considerable amount
6.
think little of, to have a low opinion of
adjective
7.
of small or less than average size
8.
young: a little boy, our little ones
9.
endearingly familiar; dear: my husband's little ways
10.
contemptible, mean, or disagreeable: your filthy little mind
11.
(of a region or district) resembling another country or town in miniature: little Venice
12.
little game, a person's secret intention or business: so that's his little game!
13.
no little, considerable
adverb
14.
(usually preceded by a) in a small amount; to a small extent or degree; not a lot: to laugh a little
15.
(used preceding a verb) not at all, or hardly: he little realized his fate
16.
not much or often: we go there very little now
17.
little by little, by small degrees
Word Origin
Old English lӯtel; related to lӯr few, Old High German luzzil
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for least
adj.

Old English læst, earlier læsest "smallest" (superlative of lytel "small"), from Proto-Germanic superlative *laisistaz (see less). Qualifying phrase at least is Middle English æt læstan. As a noun, from early 12c.; as an adverb, c.1200.

little

adj.

Old English lytel "not large, not much; short in distance or time; unimportant," also used in late Old English as a noun, "small piece; a short time," from West Germanic *lutilla- (cf. Old Saxon luttil, Dutch luttel, Old High German luzzil, German lützel, Gothic leitils "little"), perhaps originally a diminutive of the root of Old English lyt "little, few," from PIE *leud- "small." "Often synonymous with small, but capable of emotional implications which small is not" [OED].

Phrase the little woman "wife" attested from 1795. Little people "the faeries" is from 1726; as "children," it is attested from 1752; as "ordinary people" (opposed to the great), it is attested from 1827. Little Neck clams (1884) are so called for Little Neck, Long Island, a "neck" of land on the island's North Shore. Little by little is from late 15c. (litylle be litille). Little green men "space aliens" is from 1950. Little black dress is from 1939.

At the beginning of summer, smart women who stay in town like to wear sheer "little black dresses." Because most "little black dresses" look alike, retailers struggle each year to find something which will make them seem new. ["Life," June 13, 1939]
Little Orphan Annie originally was (as Little Orphant Annie) the character in James Whitcomb Riley's 1885 poem, originally titled "Elf Child." The U.S. newspaper comic strip created by Harold Gray (1894-1968) debuted in 1924 in the New York "Daily News."
LITTLE Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you
Don't
Watch
Out!

[Riley, "Elf Child"]

v.

OE lytlian, from root of little (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with least
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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