What Does Last But Not Least Mean?

Last But Not Least Meaning

Definition: The last item on a list but not necessarily the least important item on the list.

Items on a list are often listed in order of importance, meaning that people often believe that the last item is the least important. This expression emphasizes that this is not the case.

Origin of Last But Not Least

The exact origin of this expression is not clear. However, it has been found in print as early as the 1500s.

Some sources speculate that the idea originated in the Bible. In Matthew 19:30, Jesus talks about who will inherit eternal life.

  • But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

This verse says that those whom society views as powerful or important people may not be whom God views as righteous or good people. Powerful and important people on Earth may not be the same people who are following God’s will.

As far as the phrase’s English coinage, one of the earliest uses is by John Lyly, in Euphues and His England, 1580:

  • Of these three but one can stand me in steede, the last, but no the least.

Shakespeare also used the phrase several times in Julius Caesar and King Lear.

Examples of Last But Not Least

What Does Last But Not Least Mean?The first dialogue shows a brother and sister who are listing off their accomplishments for he day.

Luke: Ella, did you finish everything on your to-do list for our party?

Ella: I finished everything, and even did some additional things!

Luke: Like what?

Ella: Well, I bought all the decorations, designed and printed the invitations, cleaned the house, and last, but not least, made the cake!

Luke: Wow! Good job!

meaning last but not least The second example shows two friends gossiping about which people in their club are the most annoying.

Ray: I used to love coming to this club, but now it’s filled with all these annoying characters.

Ricardo: Really? I think most people here are pretty likeable. Whom do you dislike?

Ray: Roger, Bob, and Tim are all annoying. And last, but not least, Phil. He’s the worst!

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about global warming.

  • “I think all those things need to be addressed as we go forward but not least of which is the response by the legislative branch with respect to the issue,” he said. –New York Post

This excerpt is about updates to a local library in Los Angeles.

  • Last but not least, the library hasn’t replaced its two former pay phones. Now, considering many seniors reportedly don’t own a cell, i.e., a “smart” phone, a “DT-POTUS”-like hashtag for them could sadly read, well, “Sad!” –LA Times

Summary

The phrase last but not least is another way to say last in order but not last in importance.

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