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People say at any rate to revert to a previous topic. But what kind of rate is it referring to? Like

  • at any rate of exchange?
  • at any speed?
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Lao, did you do any research before asking your question? – Souta Sep 30 '12 at 23:46
@Souta Yes..... – isomorphismes Oct 1 '12 at 11:31
I find it annoying to hear "at any rate" in a sentence unless it refers to rate of percentages, costs, speed or exchanges. For me simply anyways, at least, and regardless, in any case, seems to be a "better fit" used in a sentence unless you referring to the accurate use of "at any rate". Just my opinion! Good Day! – user62102 Jan 12 '14 at 18:07

Apparently, it originally meant at any cost, and then became more generic from there. From etymolonline.com:

Phrase at any rate originally (1610s) meant "at any cost;" weakened sense of "at least" is attested by 1760.

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There's also any road up in the North of England, which is often used in exactly the same contexts. So arguably at any rate doesn't always/only mean at least - it could often be directly replaced by something like regardless of how we got to the present position... (or indeed, in any case). – FumbleFingers Oct 1 '12 at 2:40
How does a cost turn into reverting to a previous topic? – isomorphismes Oct 1 '12 at 11:33
@LaoTzu: I'm not sure – I wasn't around in the 1700s. :^) That's an interesting question, though, if I discover anything, I'll be sure to edit my answer. – J.R. Oct 1 '12 at 11:35
I wouldn't describe the idiom as "reverting to the previous topic". Rather it means, "in any case" or "regardless of which". So you might say, "I think that we should do X. Bob says that we should do Y. At any rate, we are agreed that we must take some action to solve this problem." It is not a big jump from "regardless of the exact cost" to "regardless of which of several options is chosen". – Jay Oct 1 '12 at 16:02
If you are using it to revert to the previous topic, it's probably the shorthand form of something like, "At any rate, that's not important now. (return to previous topic)" – Gob Ties Jan 13 '14 at 2:43

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