See also: Rather and raþer


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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. Cognate with Dutch radder (faster), comparative of Dutch rad (fast; quick), German Low German radd, ratt (rashly; quickly; hastily), German gerade (even; straight; direct).


  • (UK) enPR: th'ə(r), IPA(key): /ˈɹɑːðə/
  • Rhymes: -ɑːðə(r)
  • (UK) (interjection) IPA(key): /ˌɹɑːˈðɜː(ɹ)/
  • (US) enPR: th′ər, th′ər, IPA(key): /ˈɹæðɚ/, /ˈɹɑðɚ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æðə(r)
  • Hyphenation: rath‧er


rather (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) More quickly; sooner, earlier. [9th-19th c.]
  2. Used to specify a choice or preference; preferably. (Now usually followed by than) [from 9th c.]
    • 1992, Rudolf M[athias] Schuster, The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America: East of the Hundredth Meridian, volume V, New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, →ISBN, page vii:
      Firstly, I continue to base most species treatments on personally collected material, rather than on herbarium plants.
    I'd rather stay in all day than go out with them.
    I'd like this one rather than the other one.
    I'd rather be with you.
  3. (conjunctive) Used to introduce a contradiction; on the contrary. [from 14th c.]
    It wasn't supposed to be popular; rather, it was supposed to get the job done.
    She didn't go along, but rather went home instead.
  4. (conjunctive) Introducing a qualification or clarification; more precisely. (Now usually preceded by or.) [from 15th c.]
    • 1897, Henry James, What Maisie Knew:
      What the pupil already knew was indeed rather taken for granted than expressed, but it performed the useful function of transcending all textbooks and supplanting all studies.
    • 1898, J. A. Hamilton, "Stanley, Edward George Geoffrey Smith", in Sidney Lee (Ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Volume LIV: Stanhope–Stovin, The MacMillan Company, page 60,
      His ‘Iliad’ is spirited and polished, and, though often rather a paraphrase than a translation, is always more truly poetic than most of the best translations.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 12, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      All this was extraordinarily distasteful to Churchill. [] Never before had he felt such repulsion when the vicar displayed his characteristic bluntness or coarseness of speech. In the present connexion—or rather as a transition from the subject that started their conversation—such talk had been distressingly out of place.
    I didn't want to leave. Or rather I did, just not alone.
  5. (degree) Somewhat, fairly. [from 16th c.]
    This melon is rather tasteless.
    This melon is rather tasteless, especially compared to the one we had last time.

Usage notesEdit

  • (somewhat): This is a non-descriptive qualifier, similar to quite and fairly and somewhat. It is used where a plain adjective needs to be modified, but cannot be qualified. When spoken, the meaning can vary with the tone of voice and stress. "He was rather big" can mean anything from "not small" to "huge" (meiosis with the stress on rather).
  • (preference): When expressing preference, the expression is usually would rather or had rather, usually contracted to 'd rather, but will rather and should rather also exist. In fact, use without any modal verb also exists in nonstandard and dialectal usage, in which rather is used as a verb (he rathers/rathered), see below.




The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


rather (third-person singular simple present rathers, present participle rathering, simple past and past participle rathered)

  1. (nonstandard or dialectal) To prefer; to prefer to.
    • 1984, Bruce Brooks, 'The Moves Make the Man':
      Until just before the pie was popped into the heat. A few of them suddenly realized who put that gorgeous hunk of crackers together, and gaped. We grinned back, but very cool. The ones who knew said nothing, rathering to die than let on they had been hustled by two negative dudes.
    • 2002, Sarah Waters, 'Fingersmith':
      It was a plain brown dress, more or less the colour of my hair; and the walls of our kitchen being also brown, when I came downstairs again I could hardly be seen. I should have rathered a blue gown, or a violet one []
    • 2002, Elizabeth Bowen, The Heat of the Day:
      So you must excuse my saying anything I did: all it was, that up to the very last I had understood us all to be friendly — apart, that is, from his rathering me not there. How was I to know he would flash out so wicked?
    • 2007, Mikel Schaefer, Lost in Katrina, page 323:
      "That was a killer," said Chris. "I'd rathered die in St. Bernard than spent one minute over there. I would have rathered the storm, shaking with the wind and rain hitting in the boat for an eternity than spending any time there.


rather (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) Prior; earlier; former.
    • (Can we date this quote by Sir J. Mandeville and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      Now no man dwelleth at the rather town.



  1. (England, dated) An enthusiastic affirmation.
    • 1919, P. G. Wodehouse, My Man Jeeves
      "Do you mean to say, young man," she said frostily, "that you expect me to drink this stuff?"
      "Rather! Bucks you up, you know."
    • 1967, Peter Pook, Banker Pook Confesses:
      "Some of us stupid old die-hards believe that there is yet room for pride in one's work, Pook," Mr Pants said with dangerous emphasis.
      "Oh, rather, sir. I'd much sooner walk to London Town than ride in one of those motorcars we've heard tell of, sir."