Definition of rather in English:



  • 1would ratherUsed to indicate one's preference in a particular matter.

    ‘would you like some wine, or would you rather stick to sherry?’
    ‘she'd rather die than cause a scene’
    [with clause] ‘I'd rather you not tell him’
    ‘“You'd better ask her.” “I'd rather not.”’
    • ‘The council's political masters would rather watch while York chokes than get serious about exhaust fumes.’
    • ‘There's a side of the art world I would rather not get involved with.’
    • ‘They would rather do things themselves, to make sure they are done properly.’
    • ‘Given the choice, she would rather spend her time helping tackle crime than out on a boozy tour of the town centre.’
    • ‘When asked if he would rather be a tourist or on tour, he said a tourist.’
    • ‘I would rather have somebody punch me in the face than spit at me.’
    • ‘At home, it is true that he has usually been a risk-averse leader who would rather finesse a tough choice than make it.’
    • ‘We would rather meet people face to face than communicate via e-mail.’
    • ‘Matt Williams, the coach, I'm sure would rather see us start like we did and finish like we did than the other way around.’
    • ‘There are those among us who have never had much time for the royals, and who would rather be considered as citizens than subjects.’
    • ‘Nothing else matters to him, and he would rather live in the past than in the future.’
    • ‘Within my home country I have little freedom or choice, and would rather live elsewhere.’
    • ‘They would rather be indoors working in a computerised environment.’
    • ‘They would rather sit on the couch and blame our leaders for their own inactivity.’
    • ‘I cannot think of anybody else I would rather have as chief bridesmaid.’
    • ‘We all get impatient at times but most people have the maturity to hold this in check and would rather arrive late than risk not arriving at all.’
    • ‘Call me old fashioned, but I would rather pay what it takes to get great services in the NHS than what it costs to go outside.’
    • ‘I think I would rather have been at the ancient Greek Olympiads than at the one that's coming up.’
    • ‘Virtually anyone would rather live off his own savings than a dole from the government.’
    • ‘He would prefer no armies and would rather not die for his country, thank you.’
    by preference, sooner, preferably, by choice, from choice, more willingly, more readily
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  • 2[as submodifier] To a certain or significant extent or degree.

    ‘she's been behaving rather strangely’
    ‘he's rather an unpleasant man’
    • ‘The bad news is that popular sentiment in this matter is rather nationalistic.’
    • ‘Some of the monkeys were friendly, but others were behaving rather oddly.’
    • ‘It's left me feeling rather insecure, and slightly terrified of the future.’
    • ‘I didn't post about my Suffolk adventures yesterday, as quite frankly I was rather tired.’
    • ‘At first glance, this seems a rather odd sort of charge to make, but it carries a good deal of weight.’
    • ‘Despite the rather grisly subject matter, it is a fascinating subject.’
    • ‘It was, rather strangely, his extensive knowledge of astrology that led to his first appointment.’
    • ‘At that moment he smelt a rather strong and very unpleasant smell.’
    • ‘I was robbed of my walk today, kept indoors by a steady, rather unpleasant rain.’
    • ‘We went to see Daredevil last night, a fairly good, if rather violent, superhero movie.’
    • ‘He expected her to be panicking but in fact she thought it was quite funny and was rather proud that she managed to swim to the edge.’
    • ‘Evidence suggests that today's troubled teenagers are rather more well behaved.’
    • ‘Alex, who is rather arrogant and unpleasant, begins to receive strange text messages.’
    • ‘Yet however good it is, it seems rather tame compared to the provocative brilliance of his earlier work.’
    • ‘It was rather unpleasant, but yet it sounded like the laugh of a person you could trust.’
    • ‘The result is that the special relationship is rather like a marriage - for better or worse.’
    • ‘In fact, the only communication he appears to have made on the matter was in a rather short letter two years ago.’
    • ‘It's rather a good speech, ruined by his quite astonishingly poor delivery.’
    • ‘It is entertaining to read but seems rather trivial in comparison with its predecessor.’
    • ‘No, he prefers his rather hazy studio playhouse to the glitz of Parisian nightlife.’
    quite, a bit, a little, fairly, slightly, somewhat, relatively, to some degree, to some extent, comparatively, moderately
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    1. 2.1 Used before verbs as a way of making the expression of a feeling or opinion less assertive.
      ‘I rather think he wants me to marry him’
      ‘we were rather hoping you might do that for us’
      • ‘We had rather hoped that you didn't expect anyone to believe that.’
      • ‘I didn't care what happened to anyone and rather hoped at least someone would die a horrible death.’
      • ‘The new management team had rather spread themselves around in observation positions in the first half.’
      • ‘I rather enjoy the storylines of the supporting characters, partly because the writers tend to wind them up before they get too tedious.’
      • ‘Considering the length of his name, I was rather hoping he would have a quiet evening at the office.’
      • ‘I rather think he was hoping to be able to foil their wicked searches with cunning legal hacks and so on.’
      • ‘We get the impression that he was rather hoping to have something already in place by this stage in the game.’
      • ‘I think our two nights in a field had rather spoilt us, though, as we set out south towards Shell Island.’
      • ‘Mrs Foster said that although it was scary at first, she was rather hoping some of the pairs might fit.’
      • ‘I was rather hoping that cycling that afternoon would be abandoned because of the wind.’
      • ‘Petunia flowers are fragile though and all the heavy rain had rather decimated an enormous hanging basket full of them that hangs on the side of the car port.’
      • ‘I have to admit, I was rather hoping he'd stumble on for a few more weeks and take the ID cards down with him.’
      • ‘I'd rather hoped that we would see the desert dunes of Maspalomas as part of our trek.’
      • ‘Still, she did not want to humiliate her friend and, once it was over, she rather hoped it would never be like that again.’
      • ‘I rather hope when quizzed about America she will deliver one of her famous soundbites.’
      • ‘I think that's rather damaged any hope the competition might have had of being regarded as one of record.’
      • ‘Her affection for these people shines through the quaint freakishness, and I rather believe she understands precisely what she's trying to accomplish.’
      • ‘Either way, opera managers like Barron rather hope there will be a shift in the popular mindset.’
      • ‘I rather suspect that my experience is not unique; what is perhaps unique is the fact that I am willing to talk about it.’
      • ‘She had rather expected me to be on my way to being Prime Minister as she had been told so by a fortune-teller on holiday.’
      • ‘The last mile was a track, and we had rather dawdled, so reluctantly gave the pub a miss.’
  • 3Used to precede an idea that is different or opposite to a previous statement.

    [sentence adverb] ‘There is no shortage of basic skills in the workplace. Rather, the problem is poor management’
    • ‘The second theory is never stated explicitly; rather, it is hinted at time and again.’
    • ‘It isn't blue, they could safely say; rather, it is so clear it sparkles in the sunshine.’
    • ‘Yet its members still do not see it as leading opinion, rather as reacting to government initiatives.’
    • ‘Quakers have no fixed doctrines, rather expressing faith through action.’
    • ‘His triumph over adversity is never mentioned; rather, it is his reticence that they recall.’
    • ‘This again is not a factual assertion, rather a warning for the future.’
    • ‘This wasn't all about market value: rather, culture was being called upon to play a new role.’
    • ‘It is not so much a matter of the Government having a bad immigration policy, but, rather, that it has no policy at all.’
    • ‘This brief essay really has no conclusion; rather, this is the first volley in an ongoing discussion.’
    • ‘Of course, the trick with good or great ingredients is knowing exactly what to do with them, or rather what not to do with them.’
    • ‘Lynn has sacrificed nothing of herself; rather, she sounds rejuvenated and in excellent voice.’
    • ‘Andrea wasn't the sort to nag, rather such a quiet, forbearing type that people would hold her up as an example.’
    • ‘She is famous, not for the work of her thesis but, rather, for her later experiments to slow down light.’
    • ‘Contract law is not the enemy of parties to an agreement but, rather, their servant.’
    • ‘Reason does not determine what we think; rather, what we already think determines how we reason.’
    • ‘It prefers rather to say that it offers discounts to married couples.’
    • ‘This is not a simple party concern but rather a matter of urgent national interest.’
    • ‘It lacks the darkness of a true blues song but rather has the tender sort of heartbreak of a folk song.’
    • ‘Like most predatory mammals he did not frighten easily - rather, he felt it was his job to frighten others.’
    • ‘It is not the kind of value people unite behind - rather, it is a recognition of difference.’
    1. 3.1 More precisely (used to modify or clarify something previously stated)
      ‘I walked, or rather limped, the two miles home’
      • ‘Our goal is to not just to survive, but, rather, to thrive in the society of the future.’
      • ‘This is genuinely an oversight - or rather it is more a bit about everybody thinking that somebody else has done it.’
      • ‘The technology, or rather the people behind it, are getting smarter.’
      • ‘It is not the law that stops us at a red light; rather, it is the consequence of what might happen if we do not stop.’
      • ‘They don't really know me all that well, or rather they know the 19 year old me who moved out 11 years ago.’
      • ‘I don't mean so much when we have completed a degree, but rather when we are still studying.’
      • ‘The team have held the line and, more importantly perhaps, held to their beliefs, or rather the manager's.’
      • ‘After some hedging and indecision, we decided, or rather chanced, to take a walk, it being a sunny October day.’
      • ‘This is where the equality argument is faulty, or rather misrepresenting reality.’
      • ‘Rob employs two assistants at the shop, or rather they just started showing up every day and he didn't have the heart to tell them not to.’
      • ‘I just don't feel comfortable speaking, or rather trying to speak French.’
      • ‘They were talking about football, or rather, one of them was, I don't think the other could get a word in.’
      • ‘Modernisation is by no means overdone, or rather, when it is overdone, it is brazenly clever.’
      • ‘I've never had to worry about tax before, or rather I've never bothered worrying about tax.’
      • ‘Generally I don't like remakes, or rather, I don't like the idea of a remake.’
      • ‘As has been said before, this is a joint problem for clubs and the union and it needs a joint solution, or rather solutions.’
      • ‘This suggests that she did not slip on the ramp but, rather, on the sidewalk.’
      • ‘They walk, of course, or rather amble about by and large, as sheep do.’
      • ‘The crucial factor is not the absolute amount of nitrate in the leaf but, rather, the direction in which it is changing.’
      • ‘Woods has not written a bad book but, rather, it could have been a much better one.’
      more precisely, to be precise, to be exact, strictly speaking, correctly speaking
      View synonyms
    2. 3.2 Instead of; as opposed to.
      ‘she seemed indifferent rather than angry’
      • ‘So do they list a number for you to call instead, rather than waiting for them to call you back?’
      • ‘Get a life and fixate on your own physical imperfections rather than mine.’
      • ‘They think of me as an idiot, a fool, some disheveled thing rather than one of them.’
      • ‘Differences in mental health between married men and women were of type rather than degree.’
      • ‘That has to be a question of opinion rather than fact, so it depends on what you make of the evidence.’
      • ‘Bloggers are also free to give their own opinions, rather than toe the party line in the way that some journalists have to.’
      • ‘Instead, stick to key points and summaries, rather than big chunks of text.’
      • ‘The emphasis is on learning simple words and expressions while building vocabulary rather than grammar.’
      • ‘The failure has turned the summit into a significant setback rather than a step toward an accord.’
      • ‘It's overwhelmingly likely he will die of old age in prison rather than be executed.’
      • ‘But obviously that is not by way of an order, it is by way of an expression of hope rather than anything else.’
      • ‘Such intervention most often heightens divisions and tensions around the world rather than bringing peace.’
      • ‘The stereotype of lazy welfare mothers and fathers is an exception rather than a rule.’
      • ‘In the end, Adams decided to contact them himself rather than wait another day.’
      • ‘Anyone with an ounce of compassion can see he is to be pitied rather than pilloried.’
      • ‘But rather than keeping all the profits to himself, he has been sharing them with his fans.’
      • ‘What I picked up were impressions, rather than a firm, detailed analysis.’
      • ‘Winning the presidency needs political rather than physical courage.’
      • ‘If there are differences between the two cases they seem to us to be differences of scale or degree rather than of principle.’
      • ‘Looking back now it was the shock of the event which made it significant rather than the after-effects.’
      more, more truly
      on the contrary, quite the opposite, instead
      View synonyms


  • Used to express emphatic affirmation, agreement, or acceptance.

    ‘“You are glad to be home, aren't you?” “Rather!”’
    • ‘‘I agree, but I can't help thinking that demolishing the barracks is an added risk to the whole endeavor.’ ‘Rather,’ concurred Gavin.’
    • ‘‘We were at school together, weren't we Johnnie?’ ‘Yes, rather,’ said Johnnie.’


  • had rather

    • Would rather.

      ‘I had rather not see him’
      • ‘Make him or her feel that he is the most interesting person in the world and there is no other place you had rather be at the moment and you are sure to be a hit.’
      • ‘Normally she would not read such things to Scott but since it was front-page news, she had rather Scott hear it from her than some warped rumors off the street.’
      • ‘She had rather be outside, in the fresh air and sunshine.’
      • ‘I had rather see you dead than to see you as you are.’
      • ‘The studios had rather employ a screenwriter with eight disasters to his credit than a William Faulkner with none.’
  • rather you (or him or her, etc.) than me

    • Used to convey that one would be reluctant oneself to undertake a particular task or project undertaken by someone else.

      ‘“I'm picking him up after lunch.” “Rather you than me.”’
      • ‘I've given Dad a lift to the hospital this morning, he's got have an injection in his eye so he'll not be able to drive afterwards, rather him than me!’
      • ‘Quite a daunting prospect ahead; rather him than me.’
      • ‘I mean most of us harbour feelings and desires to meet someone wonderful, but making an appeal on national TV - well rather him than me!’
      • ‘That's a monumental task you've set yourself, rather you than me.’
      • ‘The explosion scenes are amazing and it was great to watch the stunt man doing all the action shots - rather him than me.’


Old English hrathor earlier, sooner comparative of hræthe without delay from hræth prompt (see rathe).