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adjective, rar·er, rar·est.
  1. coming or occurring far apart in time; unusual; uncommon: a rare disease; His visits are rare occasions.
  2. thinly distributed over an area; few and widely separated: Lighthouses are rare on that part of the coast.
  3. having the component parts not closely compacted together; not dense: rare gases; lightheaded from the rare mountain air.
  4. unusually great: a rare display of courage.
  5. unusually excellent; admirable; fine: She showed rare tact in inviting them.

Origin of rare1

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin rārus loose, wide apart, thin, infrequent
Related formsrare·ness, noun
Can be confusedextinct rare scarce


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1. exceptional, extraordinary, singular. 2. sparse, infrequent. 5. choice, incomparable, inimitable.


1. common. 2. frequent. 5. inferior.


adjective, rar·er, rar·est.
  1. (of meat) cooked just slightly: He likes his steak rare.

Origin of rare2

1645–55; variant of earlier rear, Middle English rere, Old English hrēr lightly boiled
Related formsrare·ness, noun


verb (used without object), rared, rar·ing. Older Use.
  1. rear2(def 6).
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rare

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Yet he was a rare man, such as few meet with in the course of a lifetime.

    Biographical Sketches

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Mary was standing rigid now, and the rare color flamed in her cheeks.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Kisses were rare in the staid little household to which she belonged.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • In his fight with Cloten he is depicted as a rare swordsman of wonderful magnanimity.

  • Sidney was experiencing the rare treat of after-dinner coffee.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

British Dictionary definitions for rare


  1. not widely known; not frequently used or experienced; uncommon or unusuala rare word
  2. occurring seldoma rare appearance
  3. not widely distributed; not generally occurringa rare herb
  4. (of a gas, esp the atmosphere at high altitudes) having a low density; thin; rarefied
  5. uncommonly great; extremekind to a rare degree
  6. exhibiting uncommon excellence; superlatively good or finerare skill
  7. highly valued because of its uncommonnessa rare prize
Derived Formsrareness, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Latin rārus sparse


  1. (of meat, esp beef) very lightly cooked

Word Origin

Old English hrēr; perhaps related to hreaw raw
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 rare


"unusual," late 14c., "thin, airy, porous;" mid-15c., "few in number and widely separated, sparsely distributed, seldom found;" from Old French rere "sparse" (14c.), from Latin rarus "thinly sown, having a loose texture; not thick; having intervals between, full of empty spaces," from PIE *ra-ro-, from root *ere- "to separate; adjoin" (cf. Sanskrit rte "besides, except," viralah "distant, tight, rare;" Old Church Slavonic rediku "rare," Old Hittite arhaš "border," Lithuanian irti "to be dissolved"). "Few in number," hence, "unusual." Related: Rareness. In chemistry, rare earth is from 1818.


"undercooked," 1650s, variant of Middle English rere, from Old English hrere "lightly cooked," probably related to hreran "to stir, move, shake, agitate," from Proto-Germanic *hror- (cf. Old Frisian hrera "to stir, move," Old Saxon hrorian, Dutch roeren, German rühren, Old Norse hroera), from PIE base *kere- "to mix, confuse; cook" (cf. Greek kera- "to mix," krasis "mixture"). Originally of eggs, not recorded in reference to meat until 1784, and according to OED, in this sense "formerly often regarded as an Americanism, although it was current in many English dialects ...."


"rise up," 1833, dialectal variant of rear (v.). Sense of "eager" (in raring to go) first recorded 1909. Related: Rared; raring.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper