the beginning or start: I wanted to explain the situation at the outset.

1530–40; out- + set

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World English Dictionary
outset (ˈaʊtˌsɛt)
a start; beginning (esp in the phrase from (orat) the outset)

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

"act of setting out on a journey, business, etc." 1759, from out + set (v.). The earlier word for this was outsetting (1676).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see at the outset.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
But the carmakers do not have to convince everyone at the outset.
His work was subjected to peer review from the outset.
Clay's political gifts were apparent from the outset.
But what they know after all that research is essentially what they knew at the
  study's outset.
Idioms & Phrases
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