Understanding the Idiom: "at that" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The Importance of Understanding Idioms

Idioms are an integral part of any language, as they allow for more nuanced communication and convey cultural nuances. However, idioms can also pose challenges for language learners who are unfamiliar with their meanings or usage. It is important to understand idioms in order to fully grasp the subtleties of a language and communicate effectively with native speakers.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “at that”

The Origins of “at that”

The exact origins of the idiom “at that” are unclear, but it is believed to have originated in Middle English as a way to emphasize a point or conclusion. The earliest recorded use of the phrase dates back to the 14th century, where it was used in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Over time, the meaning of “at that” has shifted from emphasizing a point to adding an additional detail or fact. Today, it is commonly used at the end of a sentence to add emphasis or provide further information.

The Historical Context of “at that”

Throughout history, there have been various cultural and linguistic influences on the development and usage of idioms like “at that”. For example, during the Renaissance period in Europe, Latin phrases were often incorporated into English language as a way to elevate intellectual discourse.

In addition, idioms like “at that” have been influenced by regional dialects and slang. As people migrated across different regions and countries throughout history, they brought with them their own unique expressions and colloquialisms which eventually became part of mainstream language.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “at that”

When it comes to using idioms, there are often variations in how they can be used. The same is true for the idiom “at that”. This phrase has a variety of meanings depending on the context in which it is used.


The idiom “at that” can be used to emphasize a point or add additional information to a statement. For example, “She’s an excellent cook, and she’s an artist at that.” In this case, the use of “at that” adds emphasis to the fact that she is not just a good cook but also an artist.

Another variation of this idiom is when it is used to express surprise or disbelief about something. For instance, if someone says, “I heard John got promoted,” and you respond with “Really? At that company?” Here, you’re expressing surprise because you didn’t expect John to get promoted at such a competitive company.


The usage of this idiom depends on the context in which it’s being used. It can be added at the end of a sentence as an afterthought or included within a sentence as part of its structure.

In some cases, it may also be appropriate to use other words along with “at that” such as adjectives or adverbs. For example:

  • “He was already late for work and tired at that.”
  • “The cake was delicious and gluten-free at that.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “at that”


– Moreover

– Furthermore

– In addition

– Besides

– Additionally


– Nevertheless

– Nonetheless

– However

Cultural Insights:

The use of “at that” is common in American English and can be heard in both formal and informal settings. It is often used to add emphasis or provide additional information about a previous statement. For example: “She’s a great singer, and she writes her own songs at that.” This usage implies that writing one’s own songs is an impressive feat in addition to being a talented singer.

In British English, the equivalent phrase would be “as well,” which carries a similar connotation of adding something extra to a previous statement.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “at that”

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blank

Complete each sentence with the appropriate form of “at that”.

1. She’s a great cook,
2. He’s always on time,
3. The movie was long and boring,

Exercise 2: Rewrite Sentences

Rewrite each sentence using “at that” to emphasize a point or add additional information.

Original Sentence Rewritten Sentence
The party was fun. The party was fun, at that.
I didn’t expect her to be so tall. I didn’t expect her to be so tall, at that.
The car is fast. The car is fast, at that.
He’s a good singer. He’s a good singer, at that.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “at that”

Mistake 1: Using “at that” as a Filler Phrase

One of the most common mistakes people make when using the idiom “at that” is using it as a filler phrase without understanding its meaning. This can lead to confusion and miscommunication. For example, saying “I went to the store at that” does not make sense because “at that” does not add any meaningful information to the sentence.

To avoid this mistake, always use “at that” in a context where it adds value or emphasis to what you are saying.

Mistake 2: Using “at that” Incorrectly with Adjectives

Another mistake people make when using the idiom “at that” is incorrectly placing it after an adjective instead of after a noun or pronoun. For example, saying “He was tall at that” does not make sense because “tall” is an adjective describing a quality of the person rather than something specific they did or said.

To avoid this mistake, use “at that” after a noun or pronoun to emphasize something specific about them rather than their general qualities.

Mistake Correct Usage
“I went to the store at that.” “I went to the store.”
“He was tall at that.” “He said something funny, and he was tall to begin with, at that.”
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