rather

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

rather

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat May 04, 2013 9:50 pm

Someone asked (in another place) about a possible meaning for the commonly-used word rather.

It displays considerable polysemy, intercategorial or otherwise. Here is a list I've put together from various sources, including the AHD and Collins, though I've changed most of the 'adverb' tags to ones I consider more logical:


rather

1. (pragmatic marker / evaluative / speaker orientated) More readily; preferably: I'd rather go to the movies.

2. With more reason, logic, wisdom, or other justification: [Answer 1 rather than answer 2 should be accepted.] (rather than possibly compound conjunction)

3. (pragmatic marker / discourse orientated / reformulation) More exactly; more accurately: He's my friend, or rather he was my friend.

[3b. (pragmatic marker / discourse orientated / corrective) Sorry, that's not right; I should have said ... (with inversion): It's on the third floor. Fourth, rather.]

4a. (secondary modifier) To a certain extent; somewhat: rather cold.

4b. (secondary modifier) To a significant or noticeable extent; quite: She's rather pretty, isn't she!

5. (sentence connector / contradictory) On the contrary. He's not a fascist; rather, he's a communist.

6. (sentence substitute) (rûr, rä-) (Chiefly British) Most certainly. Used as an emphatic affirmative reply. -Isn't she a smasher? -Rather!

7. (adverb) to a limited extent or degree: I rather thought that was the case.
Post actions:

Re: rather

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat May 04, 2013 11:10 pm

That's rather a useful summary.

My only other comment is that your category 3) somewhat overlaps with 5) when the clarification contrasts two entities.
Post actions:

Re: rather

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sun May 05, 2013 4:03 pm

3 and 3b are being used to mark a slight or major correction of the speaker's own statement, whereas 5 is adding a statement showing a contrasting truth to an already true statement (rather here is replaceable by in fact, quite the contrary:).
Post actions:

End of topic.
Post Reply