Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


adjective bet·ter \ˈbe-tər\

Simple Definition of better

  • : higher in quality

  • : more skillful

  • : more attractive, appealing, effective, useful, etc.

Full Definition of better

  1. comparative of good

  1. 1 :  greater than half <for the better part of an hour>

  2. 2 :  improved in health or mental attitude <feeling better>

  3. 3 :  more attractive, favorable, or commendable <in better circumstances>

  4. 4 :  more advantageous or effective <a better solution>

  5. 5 :  improved in accuracy or performance <building a better engine>

Examples of better

  1. Her second book is better than her first one.

  2. This one is no better than that one.

  3. She's a better golfer than I am.

  4. He's a better singer than he is an actor.

  5. He's much better with children now that he's a father himself.

  6. The weather is better today than it was yesterday.

  7. They came up with a better solution to the problem.

  8. Don't you have something better to do than to watch TV all day?

  9. Her work wasn't that good at first, but it's getting better.

  10. Her work just keeps getting better and better.

Origin of better

Middle English bettre, from Old English betera; akin to Old English bōt remedy, Sanskrit bhadra fortunate

First Known Use: before 12th century



verb bet·ter

Simple Definition of better

  • : to make (something) better

  • : to be or do better than (something or someone) : to improve on (something or someone)

Full Definition of better

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to make better: as a :  to make more tolerable or acceptable <trying to better the lot of slum dwellers> b :  to make more complete or perfect <looked forward to bettering her acquaintance with the new neighbors>

  3. 2 :  to surpass in excellence :  excel

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to become better

Examples of better

  1. They are trying to better the lives of working people.

  2. He looked forward to bettering his acquaintance with the new neighbors.

  3. The team has bettered its chances of winning the championship.

  4. She bettered her previous performance.

  5. He set a record that has never been equaled or bettered.

Before 12th Century

First Known Use of better

before 12th century

Synonym Discussion of better

improve, better, help, ameliorate mean to make more acceptable or to bring nearer a standard. improve and better are general and interchangeable and apply to what can be made better whether it is good or bad <measures to further improve the quality of medical care> <immigrants hoping to better their lot>. help implies a bettering that still leaves room for improvement <a coat of paint would help that house>. ameliorate implies making more tolerable or acceptable conditions that are hard to endure <tried to ameliorate the lives of people in the tenements>.



adverb bet·ter

Simple Definition of better

  • : in a better way

  • —used to suggest that something should or should not be done

  • : to a higher or greater degree

Full Definition of better

  1. comparative of well

  1. 1 a :  in a more excellent manner <sings better than I do> b :  to greater advantage :  preferably <some things are better left unsaid>

  2. 2 a :  to a higher or greater degree <he knows the story better than you do> b :  more <it is better than nine miles to the next town>

Examples of better

  1. How is she doing in school? She did badly at first, but now she's doing much better.

  2. She sings better than I do.

  3. He sings better than he acts.

  4. Instead of writing to her, I'm going to visit her in person. Even better.

  5. He knows the story much better than you do.

  6. Her paintings have become better known in recent years.

  7. There's nothing I'd like better than to see you again.

12th Century

First Known Use of better

12th century



noun bet·ter

Simple Definition of better

  • : something that is better : better behavior

Full Definition of better

  1. 1 a :  something better <I expected better from them> b :  a superior especially in merit or rank <was respectful of his betters>

  2. 2 :  advantage, victory <get the better of her>

Examples of better

  1. They shouldn't treat him that way. He deserves better.

  2. <be polite to your betters and to your inferiors in equal measure>

12th Century

First Known Use of better

12th century



verbal auxiliary bet·ter

Definition of better

  1. :  had better <you better hurry>


First Known Use of better


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up better? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 14, 2016

to hug and kiss another person

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

2.2 pounds 196.5 pounds 16.96 pounds 100 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.