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rap·​id ˈra-pəd How to pronounce rapid (audio)
: marked by a fast rate of motion, activity, succession, or occurrence
rapidly adverb
rapidness noun


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: a part of a river where the current is fast and the surface is usually broken by obstructions
usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
Choose the Right Synonym for rapid

fast, rapid, swift, fleet, quick, speedy, hasty, expeditious mean moving, proceeding, or acting with celerity.

fast and rapid are very close in meaning, but fast applies particularly to the thing that moves

fast horses

and rapid to the movement itself.

rapid current

swift suggests great rapidity coupled with ease of movement.

returned the ball with one swift stroke

fleet adds the implication of lightness and nimbleness.

fleet runners

quick suggests promptness and the taking of little time.

a quick wit

speedy implies quickness of successful accomplishment

speedy delivery of mail

and may also suggest unusual velocity.

hasty suggests hurry and precipitousness and often connotes carelessness.

a hasty inspection

expeditious suggests efficiency together with rapidity of accomplishment.

the expeditious handling of an order

Examples of rapid in a Sentence

Adjective There's been rapid growth in the number of new businesses in the town. Scientists are concerned about the rapid disappearance of the island's coral reefs. She carefully guided the boat through the rapid water.
Recent Examples on the Web
An increasingly common feature of the modern economy’s on-line shopping experience is rapid delivery of ordered merchandise. Harry G. Broadman, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 Europe’s rapid build-out of wind and solar power is being driven by the war in Ukraine and efforts to abandon Russian oil and gas. David Gelles, New York Times, 30 Nov. 2023 Their intimate but uneasy relationship was intensified by the magnitude of the history-making events that erupted in rapid succession during Nixon’s first term. Thomas W. Lippman, Washington Post, 30 Nov. 2023 The rapid transformations driven by artificial intelligence ranked at the top of the list. Alan Murray, Fortune, 30 Nov. 2023 The conference is the forefront of establishing ambitious policies at a global scale to promote the rapid mitigation of warming temperatures. Stephanie Ebbs, ABC News, 30 Nov. 2023 Timberland jokes aside, the world is always enthralled by whatever’s hot in New York; Ice Spice’s rapid rise is just the latest example. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 29 Nov. 2023 Thanks to TikTok, Instagram, and the rapid pace of knowledge-sharing, food trends are flying through the zeitgeist at a more rapid clip than ever before. Karla Walsh, Better Homes & Gardens, 28 Nov. 2023 OpenAI’s rapid rise appeared to contribute to a crisis at the company last week, when the company’s nonprofit board fired CEO Sam Altman on November 17. Will Knight, WIRED, 28 Nov. 2023
On the other side of the globe last week, winding Hong Kong streets became surging rapids. Theodora Yu, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2023 With fewer strong flows to whisk this debris away, more of it is piling up at those bends and rapids. Raymond Zhong, New York Times, 6 June 2023 On the first three weekends of November, whitewater kayakers paddle through the gorge, where an average of 500 to 700 cubic feet per second creates Class IV and V rapids. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 17 Oct. 2023 The result: a multi-day outdoor road trip from her home in western Pennsylvania to West Virginia's New River Gorge National Park, complete with sunset ATVing and a half-day whitewater rafting excursion through class III to V rapids. Laura Kiniry, Condé Nast Traveler, 17 Aug. 2023 Local outfitters guide raft trips for all skill levels, but for the most adventurous, the Upper Kennebec Gorge has up to class IV rapids. Molly McArdle, Travel + Leisure, 14 Aug. 2023 The stretch of river about 10 miles below Great Falls is known for its rapids and treacherous currents, which include a strong undertow. Martin Weil, Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2023 Cobbles and boulders periodically tumble in from hundreds of tributaries and side canyons, often during flash floods, creating bends and rapids in the river. Raymond Zhong, New York Times, 6 June 2023 In Episode 2, her missions to push the heights-phobic Will off the Grand Canyon or orchestrate his drowning on a whitewater rapids excursion have both been thwarted. Hunter Ingram, Variety, 16 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rapid.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



borrowed from French & Latin; French rapide, going back to Middle French, borrowed from Latin rapidus "(of water) flowing violently enough to sweep anything along in its path, swiftly moving, quick," from rapere "to seize and carry off, carry or sweep along" + -idus, adjective suffix; rapere perhaps going back to pre-Latin *rep-, secondary zero-grade from presumed *erp-, going back to Indo-European *h1rp-, zero-grade of a base *h1rep- "seize, pluck," whence also Lithuanian aprė́piu, aprė́pti "to surround, include," Albanian rjep "removes, robs," Greek ereptómenos "feeding on, devouring"


borrowed from French rapide, noun derivative of rapide, adjective, "swiftly moving, rapid entry 1"

First Known Use


1634, in the meaning defined above


1765, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rapid was in 1634

Dictionary Entries Near rapid

Cite this Entry

“Rapid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rapid. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
rap·​id ˈrap-əd How to pronounce rapid (audio)
: very fast
rapidly adverb
rapidness noun


2 of 2 noun
: a part of a river where the current flows fast usually over rocks
usually used in plural

More from Merriam-Webster on rapid

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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