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rather

[adverb rath-er, rah-th er; interjection rath-ur, rah-th ur]
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adverb
  1. in a measure; to a certain extent; somewhat: rather good.
  2. in some degree: I rather thought you would regret it.
  3. more properly or justly; with better reason: The contrary is rather to be supposed.
  4. sooner; more readily or willingly: to die rather than yield.
  5. more properly or correctly speaking; more truly: He is a painter or, rather, a watercolorist.
  6. on the contrary: It's not generosity, rather self-interest.
  7. rather than, instead of: Tutoring is provided by older students rather than teachers. Rather than complain, you should try to make changes.
interjection
  1. Chiefly British. emphatically yes; assuredly; without doubt: Is the book worth reading?Rather!
Idioms
  1. had/would rather, to prefer that or to: I had much rather we not stay. We would rather go for dinner after the show.Compare soon(def 8).

Origin of rather

before 900; Middle English; Old English hrathor, comparative of hræth quick, rathe
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for had rather

rather

adverb (in senses 1-4, not used with a negative)
  1. relatively or fairly; somewhatit's rather dull
  2. to a significant or noticeable extent; quiteshe's rather pretty
  3. to a limited extent or degreeI rather thought that was the case
  4. with better or more just causethis text is rather to be deleted than rewritten
  5. more readily or willingly; soonerI would rather not see you tomorrow
sentence connector
  1. on the contraryit's not cold. Rather, it's very hot indeed
sentence substitute (ˈrɑːˈðɜː)
  1. an expression of strong affirmation, often in answer to a questionIs it worth seeing? Rather!

Word Origin

Old English hrathor comparative of hræth ready, quick; related to Old Norse hrathr

usage

Both would and had are used with rather in sentences such as I would rather (or had rather) go to the film than to the play. Had rather is less common and is now widely regarded as slightly old-fashioned
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for had rather

rather

adv.

Old English hraþor "more quickly, earlier, sooner," also "more readily," comparative of hraþe, hræþe "quickly, hastily, promptly, readily, immediately," which is related to hræð "quick, nimble, prompt, ready," from Proto-Germanic *khratha- (cf. Old Norse hraðr, Old High German hrad), from PIE *kret- "to shake." The base form rathe was obsolete by 18c. except in poetry (Tennyson); superlative rathest fell from use by 17c. Meaning "more willingly" is recorded from c.1300; sense of "more truly" is attested from late 14c.

The rather lambes bene starved with cold
[Spenser, "The Shepheardes Calender" (Februarie), 1579]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with had rather

had rather

Also, had sooner. Would prefer. For example, I had rather you let me do the driving, or He'd sooner switch than fight. This idiom today is often replaced by would rather. [Late 1500s] Also see just as soon.

rather

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.