from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adverb More readily; preferably.
  • adverb More exactly; more accurately.
  • adverb To a certain extent; somewhat.
  • adverb On the contrary.
  • adverb Chiefly British Most certainly. Used as an emphatic affirmative reply.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective obsolete Prior; earlier; former.
  • adverb obsolete Earlier; sooner; before.
  • adverb More readily or willingly; preferably.
  • adverb On the other hand; to the contrary of what was said or suggested; instead.
  • adverb Of two alternatives conceived of, this by preference to, or as more likely than, the other; somewhat.
  • adverb More properly; more correctly speaking.
  • adverb In some degree; somewhat
  • adverb the more so; especially; for better reason; for particular cause.
  • adverb prefer to; prefers to.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb To prefer; to prefer to.

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

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


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

[Middle English, from Old English hrathor, comparative of hræthe, quickly, soon, from hræth, quick.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.


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  • 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 kludge 2007

  • 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 Brainerd Kellogg

  • 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 Henry Woodcock

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

    Plays of Near & Far Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Dunsany 1917

  • 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 Mrs. Molesworth 1880

  • (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 Frederick Marryat 1820

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

    unknown title 2011

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

    Shadow on the Moon Robert Salley 2011

  • 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 Mary Pilon 2011

  • 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 Geoff Barbanell 2010


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

    December 2, 2006

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

    December 29, 2006

  • i rather be at the mall

    February 15, 2007

  • i would rataher have you do thea

    February 15, 2007

  • 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