Are there any rules on how "at that" should be used in the end of a sentence?

Not only was he discriminatory, but even quite rude at that.

He was very discriminatory and even quite rude at that.


1 Answer 1


I will speak for the way I hear it used in AmE (central-atlantic is my native dialect).

Not only was this paint remover ineffective, it was the most expensive one on the shelf at that!

A synonym in AmE is "to boot".

Not only was this paint remover ineffective, it was the most expensive one on the shelf to boot!

The emphasis underscores something that runs counter to the statement in the first clause.

P.S. I am told that in England it can mean "moreover" or "besides" without contrast with the prior assertion.

He was a fine athlete and a superb marksman at that.

I think the underlying common meaning emphasizes something you might not have expected having heard the first assertion, but I'd like to have some input from BrE speakers. Would the following be a proper idiomatic usage?

He was the biggest athlete on the team and the strongest at that.

My inclination is to say no, it isn't, but that this would be:

He was the biggest athlete on the team and the speediest at that.

  • Are you sure that's restricted to BrE? I've usually heard it with the meaning of "moreover" with no prior statements it would run counter to. An AmE author writes: "That Kate could stand on her hearthstone and see the man at a distance was not surprising since her new home was still only a frame and a somewhat rickety one at that."; USA Today: "Purves later explained: it had been a warning sign, and a big one at that."; The New York Times: "The state's failure to show the impact of illegal immigration on schools was only a part of the decision, he said, and a nuanced one at that."
    – user3395
    Sep 20, 2018 at 15:50
  • The LDOCE, to whose entry I linked under the question, would normally label the definitions as confined to a certain dialect, were that the case – and in this one they haven't. (Of course, no one is infallible, but I don't think they've made a mistake here.)
    – user3395
    Sep 20, 2018 at 15:54
  • @userr2684291: Those examples do seem to me to put a counterspin on the prior assertion. The frame is not the prototypical decent frame but a rickety one. The warning sign was not a run-of-the-mill warning but one that could have been placed in ALL CAPS! The decision was not an average one but a complicated and nuanced one. Do you find the marksman and strongest athlete examples I gave to be fully idiomatic in BrE? The phrase superb marksman seems a gratuitous addendum that could be paraphrased "not to mention a superb marksman"; strongest seems perfectly in line with the prior assertion.
    – TimR
    Sep 20, 2018 at 17:00
  • Yes, none of these work for me for the reason you gave for the superb marksman one, and I asked one of my online friends from Australia, and they also don't like them. Sorry. (The last example sounded a little "better" to them but still off.) Don't really have any Brits handy at the moment, but I doubt they'll like it. The OED (2nd ed.) says about at that: "(orig. U.S., colloq. or slang): estimated at that rate, at that standard, even in that capacity, in respect of that; too; ‘into the bargain’: ‘a cant phrase..used to define more nearly or intensify something already said’ (Bartlett)."
    – user3395
    Sep 21, 2018 at 0:55

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