[adv. rath-er, rah-ther; interj. rath-ur, rah-thur]
in a measure; to a certain extent; somewhat: rather good.
in some degree: I rather thought you would regret it.
more properly or justly; with better reason: The contrary is rather to be supposed.
sooner; more readily or willingly: to die rather than yield.
more properly or correctly speaking; more truly: He is a painter or, rather, a watercolorist.
on the contrary: It's not generosity, rather self-interest.
rather than, instead of: Tutoring is provided by older students rather than teachers. Rather than complain, you should try to make changes.
Chiefly British. emphatically yes; assuredly; without doubt: Is the book worth reading?Rather!
had/would rather, to prefer that or to: I had much rather we not stay. We would rather go for dinner after the show.

before 900; Middle English; Old English hrathor, comparative of hræth quick, rathe

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World English Dictionary
rather (ˈrɑːðə)
1.  relatively or fairly; somewhat: it's rather dull
2.  to a significant or noticeable extent; quite: she's rather pretty
3.  to a limited extent or degree: I rather thought that was the case
4.  with better or more just cause: this text is rather to be deleted than rewritten
5.  more readily or willingly; sooner: I would rather not see you tomorrow
sentence connector
6.  on the contrary: it's not cold. Rather, it's very hot indeed
sentence substitute
7.  an expression of strong affirmation, often in answer to a question: Is it worth seeing? Rather!
usage  Both would and had are used with rather in sentences such as I would rather (or had rather) go to the film than to the play. Had rather is less common and is now widely regarded as slightly old-fashioned

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

O.E. hraþor "more quickly, earlier, sooner," also "more readily," comparative of hraþe, hræþe "quickly," related to hræð "quick," from P.Gmc. *khrathuz (cf. O.N. hraðr, O.H.G. hrad). The base form rathe was obsolete by 18c. except in poetry; superlative rathest fell
from use by 17c. Meaning "more willingly" is recorded from c.1300; sense of "more truly" is attested from c.1380.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Electrical conduit should run inside the counter, rather than through the block
  cells, wherever possible.
To avoid damaging branches, twist fruit off gently rather than pulling it.
Selected for flavor rather than hardiness, they are the crown jewels of summer.
Here's a spot for anyone looking for a retreat rather than a resort.
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