Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Something rare.
  • n. The quality or state of being rare; infrequency of occurrence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A measure of the scarcity of an object.
  • n. Thinness; the property of having low density
  • n. A rare object.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The quality or state of being rare; rareness; thinness.
  • n. That which is rare; an uncommon thing; a thing valued for its scarcity.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The condition of being rare, or not dense, or of occupying, as a corporeal substance, much space with little matter; thinness; tenuity: opposed to density: as, the rarity of a gas.
  • n. The state of being uncommon or of infrequent occurrence; uncommonness; infrequency.
  • n. Something that is rare or uncommon; a thing valued for its scarcity or for its unusual excellence.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. noteworthy scarcity
  • n. something unusual -- perhaps worthy of collecting
  • n. a rarified quality

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Latin rāritās; compare French rareté. See also rare.

Examples

  • In short, it's only value lies in its rarity -- and such rarity is only attractive at times when dollars are anything but.

    James Berman: Gold: A Little Gaudy in This Light

  • Silver is beautiful, useful, valuable and growing in rarity and demand.

    Archive 2009-10-25

  • They use the word rarity to describe this strain early in the outbreak.

    CNN Transcript Jun 18, 2008

  • The most important aspect of a gemstone is its 'rarity' - means the economical value of these precious and semi-precious stones is measured in terms of its rarity in appearance.

    xml's Blinklist.com

  • But today, tissue volume trumps biomedical rarity, which is why anyone who undergoes surgery at hospitals such as Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess is first asked to sign away the ownership rights to his excised tissues to Ardais, a for-profit corporation.

    Harriet A. Washington: Gene Patenting Produces Profits, Not Cures

  • The rarity is the TV execs who are asking their leading ladies like January Jones and Edie Falco to ease off the extensive daily workouts and eat more so that the actors better represent women across the country.

    Dr. Mike Dow: Mad (Wo)Men: Barbies Couldn't Menstruate

  • I have seen this rarity, which is now in the strong room where Mr. PIERPONT MORGAN keeps his autographs safe equally from fire and from theft -- if not from the desire to thieve.

    Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 159, August 4th, 1920

  • The interesting story teller is a rarity, which is only another way of saying that the ability to narrate and describe needs cultivation.

    The Recitation

  • Twichell, Aldrich -- those oldest friends who had themselves learned the meaning of grief -- spoke such few and futile words as the language can supply to allay a heart's mourning, each recalling the rarity and beauty of the life that had slipped away.

    Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume III, Part 1: 1900-1907

  • Howells, Twichell, Aldrich -- those oldest friends who had themselves learned the meaning of grief -- spoke such few and futile words as the language can supply to allay a heart's mourning, each recalling the rarity and beauty of the life that had slipped away.

    Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete

Comments

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  • "There were three possible kinds of rarity: intrinsic, circumstantial, and artificial. Intrinsic rarity would be something resembling the current status of Italian white truffles: nature just doesn't produce many of them and it has so far proved impossible to cultivate them. As with the truffles, there might not be very much spice in the world because it only grew in certain places under special conditions or climates.

    "Circumstantial rarity is natural in the sense that nature rather than human intervention limits the supply, but here the limitation is imposed not by climate, soil, or other intrinsic obstacles but rather by the difficulty of acquiring the product desired. Saffron today is extremely expensive, just as it was in the Middle Ages, not because it is a rare plant--in fact it can grow in many climates--but because the usable part is tedious to harvest and requires an immense amount of labor. Each flower has only three orange-red stigmas, so that seventy thousand flowers are needed to obtain a single pound of saffron.

    "A third kind of rarity is that imposed by human action, usually through deliberate restriction of the supply in order to increase the price. The product may then not be as rare as its price might lead one to believe. Diamonds, for example, are more common in the modern world than the prices they command would seem to indicate. When monopoly control by the De Beers Company of South Africa was effective, the price of diamonds was more than twice what it has become since the end of the cartel in the 1990s. Thus until recently a moderately rare product was monopolized and so rendered artificially even rarer."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 131-132.

    November 28, 2017