than

[than, then; unstressed thuhn, uhn]
conjunction
1.
(used, as after comparative adjectives and adverbs, to introduce the second member of an unequal comparison): She's taller than I am.
2.
(used after some adverbs and adjectives expressing choice or diversity, such as other, otherwise, else, anywhere, or different, to introduce an alternative or denote a difference in kind, place, style, identity, etc.): I had no choice other than that. You won't find such freedom anywhere else than in this country.
3.
(used to introduce the rejected choice in expressions of preference): I'd rather walk than drive there.
4.
except; other than: We had no choice than to return home.
5.
when: We had barely arrived than we had to leave again.
preposition
6.
in relation to; by comparison with (usually followed by a pronoun in the objective case): He is a person than whom I can imagine no one more courteous.

Origin:
before 900; Middle English, Old English than(ne) than, then, when, variant (in special senses) of thonne then; cognate with German dann then, denn than, Dutch dan then, than

than, then (see usage note at the current entry).


Whether than is to be followed by the objective or subjective case of a pronoun is much discussed in usage guides. When, as a conjunction, than introduces a subordinate clause, the case of any pronouns following than is determined by their function in that clause: He is younger than I am. I like her better than I like him. When than is followed only by a pronoun or pronouns, with no verb expressed, the usual advice for determining the case is to form a clause mentally after than to see whether the pronoun would be a subject or an object. Thus, the sentences He was more upset than I and She gave him more sympathy than I are to be understood, respectively, as He was more upset than I was and She gave him more sympathy than I gave him. In the second sentence, the use of the objective case after than (She gave him more sympathy than me) would produce a different meaning (She gave him more sympathy than she gave me). This method of determining the case of pronouns after than is generally employed in formal speech and writing.
Than occurs as a preposition in the old and well-established construction than whom: a musician than whom none is more expressive. In informal, especially uneducated, speech and writing, than is usually treated as a preposition and followed by the objective case of the pronoun: He is younger than me. She plays better poker than him, but you play even better than her. See also but1, different, me.
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World English Dictionary
than (ðæn, (unstressed) ðən)
 
conj, —prep
1.  used to introduce the second element of a comparison, the first element of which expresses difference: shorter than you; couldn't do otherwise than love him; he swims faster than I run
2.  used after adverbs such as rather or sooner to introduce a rejected alternative in an expression of preference: rather than be imprisoned, I shall die
3.  other than besides; in addition to
 
usage  In formal English, than is usually regarded as a conjunction governing an unexpressed verb: he does it far better than I (do). The case of any pronoun therefore depends on whether it is the subject or object of the unexpressed verb: she likes him more than I (like him); she likes him more than (she likes) me. However in ordinary speech and writing than is usually treated as a preposition and is followed by the object form of a pronoun: my brother is younger than me

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

than
O.E. þan, conjunctive particle used after a comparative adj. or adv., from þanne, þænne, þonne "then" (see then). Developed from the adverb then, and not distinguished from it in spelling until c.1700. The earliest use is in W.Gmc. comparative
forms, i.e. bigger than (cf. Du. dan, Ger. denn), which suggests a semantic development from the demonstrative sense of then: A is bigger than B, evolving from A is bigger, then ("after that") B. Or the word may trace to O.E. þonne "when, when as," such as "When as" B is big, A is more (so).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
We should conceive of poetry worthily, and more highly than it has been the
  custom to conceive of it.
They are shorter and narrower than those of the trachea, but have the same
  shape and arrangement.
The sentiment they instill is of more value than any thought they may contain.
The plexuses are often in two layers: a superficial and a deep, the superficial
  being of smaller caliber than the deep.
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