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[adverb rath -er, rah-th er; interjection rath -ur, rah-th ur] /adverb ˈræð ər, ˈrɑ ðər; interjection ˈræðˈɜr, ˈrɑˈðɜr/
in a measure; to a certain extent; somewhat:
rather good.
in some degree:
I rather thought you would regret it.
more properly or justly; with better reason:
The contrary is rather to be supposed.
sooner; more readily or willingly:
to die rather than yield.
more properly or correctly speaking; more truly:
He is a painter or, rather, a watercolorist.
on the contrary:
It's not generosity, rather self-interest.
rather than, instead of: Tutoring is provided by older students rather than teachers.
Rather than complain, you should try to make changes.
Chiefly British. emphatically yes; assuredly; without doubt:
Is the book worth reading?Rather!
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


[reyth] /reɪð/
Archaic. growing, blooming, or ripening early in the year or season.
Also, rath
[rath] /ræθ/ (Show IPA)
before 900; Middle English; Old English hræth, hræd quick, active; cognate with Dutch rad, Old Norse hrathr
Related forms
rathely, adverb
ratheness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for rather
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Had you rather witness the sports of the gymnasia than the works of artists?

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • rather gain one prize from the Choragus than ten from the Gymnasiarch.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • "He said he was poor," urged Billy, who had been rather taken with the ease of Arledge's manner.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Mrs. Rushton was sitting at her work, in rather a disconsolate frame of mind.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • He sat down, rather discontented, and resumed the current of his reflections.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
British Dictionary definitions for rather


adverb (in senses 1-4, not used with a negative)
relatively or fairly; somewhat: it's rather dull
to a significant or noticeable extent; quite: she's rather pretty
to a limited extent or degree: I rather thought that was the case
with better or more just cause: this text is rather to be deleted than rewritten
more readily or willingly; sooner: I would rather not see you tomorrow
sentence connector
on the contrary: it's not cold. Rather, it's very hot indeed
sentence substitute (ˈrɑːˈðɜː)
an expression of strong affirmation, often in answer to a question: Is it worth seeing? Rather!
Usage note
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
Word Origin
Old English hrathor comparative of hræthready, quick; related to Old Norse hrathr


adjective (archaic or literary)
blossoming or ripening early in the season
eager or prompt
Word Origin
Old English hrathe; related to Old High German hrado, Old Norse hrathr
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
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Word Origin and History for rather

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
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Idioms and Phrases with rather


see: had rather
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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