"Least child"

Mark Mandel Mark.A.Mandel at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 5 21:08:28 UTC 2009

I think of it in such phrases as about equivalent to "littlest"... OED says
I'm not the only one:

    Used as the superlative of LITTLE.
    A. adj.
    I. In concord with n. expressed or understood.
    1. a. Little beyond all others in size or degree; smallest; slightest;
[obs.] fewest.  Not infrequently coupled with last: see LAST a. 1c.

So "least child" = 'smallest child', from which the step to 'youngest child'
is easy.

m a m

On Mon, Aug 3, 2009 at 7:20 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

> The phrase had an 18th-century flavor to me, so I googled books
> before 1799.  Merely 5 hits (plus one with no preview available), of
> which just one is suggestive:
> The Child's companion, 1799, page 50 (full view available).
> "The words were so simple, that the least child knew what was meant."
> Apparently my taste is a little off, however.  Between 1800 and 1849
> inclusive, there are 395 hits.  The first 10 (of which only one
> appears to be a duplicate) all have the desired sense -- although
> sometimes not merely youngest in a family but in a town or in God's
> universe.
> Joel
> At 8/3/2009 04:00 PM, Bill Palmer wrote:
> >In conversation today, speaker from western NC, referred to
> >his  daughter as his "least child", meaning nothing more than the
> >one who was younger.
> >
> >Has anyone ever heard "least" to mean "younger" or "youngest"?
> >
> >I did not get any relevant Google hits on "least child".
> >
> >Bill Palmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list