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?
  • Lao, did you do any research before asking your question? – Souta Sep 30 '12 at 23:46
  • 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.

  • 1
    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
  • 5
    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

When I hear "at any rate", I visualize a gas pump or travel: at whatever rate of delivery, you will arrive at the goal, the bottom line, or the point of the conversation. This happens regardless of speed, pressure, time, sidebars, rabbit trails, or anything else. To the point, "at any rate" is a way of getting back to the course of conversation after a lateral excursion to adduce a point of argument or balance a viewpoint with opposing views, contingencies, or other topics.


"At any rate" literally means that "the rate doesn't matter".

If I were to say "my computer can process commands at any rate that I can enter commands", then I'm saying that my computer is not limited in any way, I can send commands as fast as I want.

However, you're asking for a specific usage. "at any rate" when it is used to go back to an older discussion topic. This isn't a literal meaning, but rather a figurative (idiomatic?) meaning.

Let me first rephrase my example:

  • My computer can process commands at any rate that I can enter commands.
  • My computer can process commands, regardless of the rate with which I send them.
  • Sometimes, I enter commands much faster than other times, but the computer can process them anyway.
  • Sometimes, I enter commands much faster than other times, but the computer can process them at any rate.

What I am telling you is that we should not be discussing the rate at which I can send commands, because whatever the rate is, I am telling you my computer will definitely be able to handle it. We could spend time trying to determine the rate at which I send commands, but it would be wasted time because it does not matter, the computer will handle it anyway.

When you say "regardless", you are trying to stop talking about a specific topic because it does not influence the other topic you're trying to talk about.

I don't know if the gun he was holding was an automatic rifle or a pistol. Regardless (of which type of gun he was carrying), he was carrying a gun in public!

I'll also give you an example where "regardless" or "at any rate" (they are interchangeably in this specific contect) is used to revert to an older topic.

A : Hey, I bumped into C last night. She said you've been stalking her.
B : Oh. She gets like that when she's drunk.
A : I don't think that's relevant to this discussion. She said you've been calling her and leaving her creepy messages.
B : Let me just ask you this: was she smoking a cigarette? Because she only smokes after she's been drinking for a while, so that must mean that she was drunk at the time!
A : Regardless / At any rate , I heard the voicemail messages you left her, and they are really creepy.

B was introducing a new discussion topic (how to establish whether C was drunk or not). A is shutting that topic down, because it does not matter. He already has proof that B left creepy messages, and it is therefore irrelevant to argue whether C was truthful or not.

protected by NVZ May 12 '17 at 7:40

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.