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[adverb rath -er, rah-th er; interjection rath -ur, rah-th ur] /adverb ˈræð ər, ˈrɑ ðər; interjection ˈræðˈɜr, ˈrɑˈðɜr/
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.
Origin of rather
before 900; Middle English; Old English hrathor, comparative of hræth quick, rathe Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for would rather
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Well, I am sure I would rather be refused than taken unwillingly.

    The Maidens' Lodge Emily Sarah Holt
  • The little boy in the poem says that he would rather be at Kilve than at Liswyn.

    Days Off Henry Van Dyke
  • I would rather a thousand times that you gave me some work or errand.

    Lover or Friend Rosa Nouchette Carey
  • "I would rather go with you, too," she said, gazing up at him.

    Stanford Stories Charles K. Field
  • I have an hour at my disposal, and I would rather spend it here than anywhere else.

    An Old English Home S. Baring-Gould
British Dictionary definitions for would rather


adverb (in senses 1-4, not used with a negative)
relatively or fairly; somewhat: it's rather dull
to a significant or noticeable extent; quite: she's rather pretty
to a limited extent or degree: I rather thought that was the case
with better or more just cause: this text is rather to be deleted than rewritten
more readily or willingly; sooner: I would rather not see you tomorrow
sentence connector
on the contrary: it's not cold. Rather, it's very hot indeed
sentence substitute (ˈrɑːˈðɜː)
an expression of strong affirmation, often in answer to a question: Is it worth seeing? Rather!
Usage note
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
Word Origin
Old English hrathor comparative of hræthready, quick; related to Old Norse hrathr
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for would rather



Old English hraþor "more quickly, earlier, sooner," also "more readily," comparative of hraþe, hræþe "quickly, hastily, promptly, readily, immediately," which is related to hræð "quick, nimble, prompt, ready," from Proto-Germanic *khratha- (cf. Old Norse hraðr, Old High German hrad), from PIE *kret- "to shake." The base form rathe was obsolete by 18c. except in poetry (Tennyson); superlative rathest fell from use by 17c. Meaning "more willingly" is recorded from c.1300; sense of "more truly" is attested from late 14c.

The rather lambes bene starved with cold
[Spenser, "The Shepheardes Calender" (Februarie), 1579]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with would rather

would rather

Prefer to, as in We would rather eat dinner before the movie. [ Mid-1500s ]


see: had rather
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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