Definitions

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

  • adv. More readily; preferably: I'd rather go to the movies.
  • adv. With more reason, logic, wisdom, or other justification.
  • adv. More exactly; more accurately: He's my friend, or rather he was my friend.
  • adv. To a certain extent; somewhat: rather cold.
  • adv. On the contrary.
  • adv. Chiefly British Most certainly. Used as an emphatic affirmative reply.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To prefer; to prefer to.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Prior; earlier; former.
  • adv. Earlier; sooner; before.
  • adv. More readily or willingly; preferably.
  • adv. On the other hand; to the contrary of what was said or suggested; instead.
  • adv. Of two alternatives conceived of, this by preference to, or as more likely than, the other; somewhat.
  • adv. More properly; more correctly speaking.
  • adv. In some degree; somewhat

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • More quickly; quicker. See rath, adverb, 1.
  • Earlier; sooner.
  • More readily or willingly; with better liking; with preference or choice; in preference, as compared with something else.
  • In preference; preferably; with better reason; better.
  • More properly; more correctly speaking; more.
  • On the contrary; to the contrary of what has been just stated.
  • In a greater degree; much; considerably; also, in colloquial use, in some degree; somewhat: qualifying a verb.
  • In some degree or measure; somewhat; moderately: usually qualifying an adverb or an adjective: as, she is rather pretty.

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

  • adv. more readily or willingly
  • adv. to a degree (not used with a negative)
  • adv. on the contrary
  • adv. to some (great or small) extent

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English hrathor, comparative of hræthe, quickly, soon, from hræth, quick.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English rather, rether, from Old English hraþor ("sooner, earlier, more quickly"), comparative of hraþe ("hastily, quickly, promptly, readily, immediately, soon, at once, directly"), equivalent to rathe +‎ -er. More at rathe. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • There are days when I just cannot have straight coffee, but rather make a *rather* chocolaty mocha. made with dark chocolate chips AH!

    Coffee For Brains

  • In the analysis of "_I had rather go_," _had_ is the predicate verb, the infinitive _go_ is the object complement, and the adjective _rather_ completes _had_ and belongs to _go_, i.e., is objective complement.

    Higher Lessons in English A work on english grammar and composition

  • I have seen him in the streets when he would go anywhere, or turn down any passage, rather than meet me; and when compelled to meet me he would look up at the sky or survey the chimney tops _rather_ than see me. '

    The Hero of the Humber or the History of the Late Mr. John Ellerthorpe

  • TRUNDLEBEN: I think it was rather -- perhaps _rather_ tragic, Sir Webley.

    Plays of Near & Far

  • It was getting very near the holidays, already the middle of July, and though we had several times asked mamma where we were going, she had never been able to tell us, and at last she got tired of our asking, and said in her rather vexed voice -- she has a vexed voice, and a _very_ vexed voice as well, but when it isn't as bad as either of these we call it her "_rather_ vexed" voice.

    A Christmas Posy

  • (or rather I) who have done wrong or right, and the consequence is, that the American is _rather_ irritable on the subject, as every attack is taken as personal.

    Diary in America, Series Two

  • In many administrations, customer service is just a label rather than a behavior.

  • The earth's shadow on the moon is poetic, a sigh between sentences, using a definition rather than the word.

    Shadow on the Moon

  • SMAs can be good for investors because the assets are held in their name rather than comingled with other investors' money in a fund.

    How 'Separate Accounts' Can Disappoint Investors

  • Flashman's Khokandian friends seem to have used the term rather loosely, possibly because many of them were part Mongol by descent.

    The Sky Writer

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • I should have rathered a blue gown, or a violet one; but Gentleman said it was the perfect dress for a sneak or for a servant
    —Sarah Waters, Fingersmith

    I'd never seen this verbal use before, and assumed Waters had researched authentic Victorian colloquialism. However, web search shows it quite common today too, with much the same argument structures as 'prefer'.

    February 23, 2009

  • i would rataher have you do thea

    February 15, 2007

  • i rather be at the mall

    February 15, 2007

  • Rather: the only way I know to say "a lot" and make it sound like "sort of".

    December 29, 2006

  • Rather, used as an afirmative or modifier, is annoying, e.g., "I rather enjoyed the performance."

    December 2, 2006