Definition of rather in US 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.”’
    • ‘There's a side of the art world I would rather not get involved with.’
    • ‘I cannot think of anybody else I would rather have as chief bridesmaid.’
    • ‘They would rather sit on the couch and blame our leaders for their own inactivity.’
    • ‘They would rather do things themselves, to make sure they are done properly.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I would rather have somebody punch me in the face than spit at me.’
    • ‘We would rather meet people face to face than communicate via e-mail.’
    • ‘Nothing else matters to him, and he would rather live in the past than in the future.’
    • ‘Given the choice, she would rather spend her time helping tackle crime than out on a boozy tour of the town centre.’
    • ‘They would rather be indoors working in a computerised environment.’
    • ‘There are those among us who have never had much time for the royals, and who would rather be considered as citizens than subjects.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At home, it is true that he has usually been a risk-averse leader who would rather finesse a tough choice than make it.’
    • ‘Within my home country I have little freedom or choice, and would rather live elsewhere.’
    • ‘The council's political masters would rather watch while York chokes than get serious about exhaust fumes.’
    • ‘When asked if he would rather be a tourist or on tour, he said a tourist.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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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  • 2as submodifier To a certain or significant extent or degree.

    ‘she's been behaving rather strangely’
    ‘he's rather an unpleasant man’
    • ‘Alex, who is rather arrogant and unpleasant, begins to receive strange text messages.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At that moment he smelt a rather strong and very unpleasant smell.’
    • ‘We went to see Daredevil last night, a fairly good, if rather violent, superhero movie.’
    • ‘I was robbed of my walk today, kept indoors by a steady, rather unpleasant rain.’
    • ‘Some of the monkeys were friendly, but others were behaving rather oddly.’
    • ‘The result is that the special relationship is rather like a marriage - for better or worse.’
    • ‘I didn't post about my Suffolk adventures yesterday, as quite frankly I was rather tired.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘No, he prefers his rather hazy studio playhouse to the glitz of Parisian nightlife.’
    • ‘It's left me feeling rather insecure, and slightly terrified of the future.’
    • ‘It was rather unpleasant, but yet it sounded like the laugh of a person you could trust.’
    • ‘It was, rather strangely, his extensive knowledge of astrology that led to his first appointment.’
    • ‘In fact, the only communication he appears to have made on the matter was in a rather short letter two years ago.’
    • ‘The bad news is that popular sentiment in this matter is rather nationalistic.’
    • ‘Yet however good it is, it seems rather tame compared to the provocative brilliance of his earlier work.’
    • ‘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.’
    quite, a bit, a little, fairly, slightly, somewhat, relatively, to some degree, to some extent, comparatively, moderately
    View synonyms
    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’
      • ‘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'd rather hoped that we would see the desert dunes of Maspalomas as part of our trek.’
      • ‘I think our two nights in a field had rather spoilt us, though, as we set out south towards Shell Island.’
      • ‘We get the impression that he was rather hoping to have something already in place by this stage in the game.’
      • ‘Either way, opera managers like Barron rather hope there will be a shift in the popular mindset.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘I rather enjoy the storylines of the supporting characters, partly because the writers tend to wind them up before they get too tedious.’
      • ‘I didn't care what happened to anyone and rather hoped at least someone would die a horrible death.’
      • ‘I rather suspect that my experience is not unique; what is perhaps unique is the fact that I am willing to talk about it.’
      • ‘We had rather hoped that you didn't expect anyone to believe that.’
      • ‘The last mile was a track, and we had rather dawdled, so reluctantly gave the pub a miss.’
      • ‘The new management team had rather spread themselves around in observation positions in the first half.’
      • ‘I rather think he was hoping to be able to foil their wicked searches with cunning legal hacks and so on.’
      • ‘Mrs Foster said that although it was scary at first, she was rather hoping some of the pairs might fit.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Considering the length of his name, I was rather hoping he would have a quiet evening at the office.’
      • ‘I was rather hoping that cycling that afternoon would be abandoned because of the wind.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I rather hope when quizzed about America she will deliver one of her famous soundbites.’
  • 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’
    • ‘It prefers rather to say that it offers discounts to married couples.’
    • ‘This brief essay really has no conclusion; rather, this is the first volley in an ongoing discussion.’
    • ‘This wasn't all about market value: rather, culture was being called upon to play a new role.’
    • ‘It is not the kind of value people unite behind - rather, it is a recognition of difference.’
    • ‘Contract law is not the enemy of parties to an agreement but, rather, their servant.’
    • ‘She is famous, not for the work of her thesis but, rather, for her later experiments to slow down light.’
    • ‘His triumph over adversity is never mentioned; rather, it is his reticence that they recall.’
    • ‘Yet its members still do not see it as leading opinion, rather as reacting to government initiatives.’
    • ‘Like most predatory mammals he did not frighten easily - rather, he felt it was his job to frighten others.’
    • ‘This again is not a factual assertion, rather a warning for the future.’
    • ‘Quakers have no fixed doctrines, rather expressing faith through action.’
    • ‘Reason does not determine what we think; rather, what we already think determines how we reason.’
    • ‘This is not a simple party concern but rather a matter of urgent national interest.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It lacks the darkness of a true blues song but rather has the tender sort of heartbreak of a folk song.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is not so much a matter of the Government having a bad immigration policy, but, rather, that it has no policy at all.’
    • ‘Andrea wasn't the sort to nag, rather such a quiet, forbearing type that people would hold her up as an example.’
    1. 3.1 More precisely (used to modify or clarify something previously stated)
      ‘I walked, or rather limped, the two miles home’
      • ‘I don't mean so much when we have completed a degree, but rather when we are still studying.’
      • ‘They don't really know me all that well, or rather they know the 19 year old me who moved out 11 years ago.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They walk, of course, or rather amble about by and large, as sheep do.’
      • ‘I just don't feel comfortable speaking, or rather trying to speak French.’
      • ‘Modernisation is by no means overdone, or rather, when it is overdone, it is brazenly clever.’
      • ‘Generally I don't like remakes, or rather, I don't like the idea of a remake.’
      • ‘This is where the equality argument is faulty, or rather misrepresenting reality.’
      • ‘I've never had to worry about tax before, or rather I've never bothered worrying about tax.’
      • ‘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 is genuinely an oversight - or rather it is more a bit about everybody thinking that somebody else has done it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Our goal is to not just to survive, but, rather, to thrive in the society of the future.’
      • ‘The technology, or rather the people behind it, are getting smarter.’
      • ‘The team have held the line and, more importantly perhaps, held to their beliefs, or rather the manager's.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘After some hedging and indecision, we decided, or rather chanced, to take a walk, it being a sunny October day.’
      • ‘This suggests that she did not slip on the ramp but, rather, on the sidewalk.’
      • ‘They were talking about football, or rather, one of them was, I don't think the other could get a word in.’
      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’
      • ‘What I picked up were impressions, rather than a firm, detailed analysis.’
      • ‘They think of me as an idiot, a fool, some disheveled thing rather than one of them.’
      • ‘It's overwhelmingly likely he will die of old age in prison rather than be executed.’
      • ‘But rather than keeping all the profits to himself, he has been sharing them with his fans.’
      • ‘Looking back now it was the shock of the event which made it significant rather than the after-effects.’
      • ‘The failure has turned the summit into a significant setback rather than a step toward an accord.’
      • ‘Get a life and fixate on your own physical imperfections rather than mine.’
      • ‘That has to be a question of opinion rather than fact, so it depends on what you make of the evidence.’
      • ‘Differences in mental health between married men and women were of type rather than degree.’
      • ‘If there are differences between the two cases they seem to us to be differences of scale or degree rather than of principle.’
      • ‘Winning the presidency needs political rather than physical courage.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So do they list a number for you to call instead, rather than waiting for them to call you back?’
      • ‘But obviously that is not by way of an order, it is by way of an expression of hope rather than anything else.’
      • ‘The emphasis is on learning simple words and expressions while building vocabulary rather than grammar.’
      • ‘Anyone with an ounce of compassion can see he is to be pitied rather than pilloried.’
      • ‘Such intervention most often heightens divisions and tensions around the world rather than bringing peace.’
      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!”’
    • ‘‘We were at school together, weren't we Johnnie?’ ‘Yes, rather,’ said Johnnie.’
    • ‘‘I agree, but I can't help thinking that demolishing the barracks is an added risk to the whole endeavor.’ ‘Rather,’ concurred Gavin.’


  • had rather

    • archaic, literary Would rather.

      ‘I had rather not see him’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The studios had rather employ a screenwriter with eight disasters to his credit than a William Faulkner with none.’
      • ‘I had rather see you dead than to see you as you are.’
      • ‘She had rather be outside, in the fresh air and sunshine.’
  • 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.”’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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!’


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