1 of 2

adjective (1)

rarer; rarest
: seldom occurring or found : uncommon
: marked by unusual quality, merit, or appeal : distinctive
: superlative or extreme of its kind
: marked by wide separation of component particles : thin
rare air
rareness noun


2 of 2

adjective (2)

rarer; rarest
: cooked so that the inside is still red
rare roast beef
Choose the Right Synonym for rare

choice, exquisite, elegant, rare, delicate, dainty mean having qualities that appeal to a cultivated taste.

choice stresses preeminence in quality or kind.

choice fabric

exquisite implies a perfection in workmanship or design that appeals only to very sensitive taste.

an exquisite gold bracelet

elegant applies to what is rich and luxurious but restrained by good taste.

a sumptuous but elegant dining room

rare suggests an uncommon excellence.

rare beauty

delicate implies exquisiteness, subtlety, and fragility.

delicate craftsmanship

dainty sometimes carries an additional suggestion of smallness and of appeal to the eye or palate.

dainty sandwiches

infrequent, uncommon, scarce, rare, sporadic mean not common or abundant.

infrequent implies occurrence at wide intervals in space or time.

infrequent family visits

uncommon suggests a frequency below normal expectation.

smallpox is now uncommon in many countries

scarce implies falling short of a standard or required abundance.

jobs were scarce during the Depression

rare suggests extreme scarcity or infrequency and often implies consequent high value.

rare first editions

sporadic implies occurrence in scattered instances or isolated outbursts.

sporadic cases of influenza

Examples of rare in a Sentence

Adjective (1) even among the prize-winning roses, this one is a rare beauty rare specialty wools, such as cashmere, prized for their fineness, lightness and exceptional warmth the French pronunciation of the family's name is rare, except in Louisiana "Such good manners are rare these days," remarked Mrs. Denby, as the young man let her go ahead of him in line
Recent Examples on the Web
Airline strikes are exceedingly rare—the last one occurred in 2010, when Spirit Airlines pilots went on strike for five days. Eva Roytburg, Fortune, 8 June 2024 And the wool rugs lining the timber floors are handmade from the fur of rare seaweed-eating sheep on the Isle of Auskerry. Katie Lockhart, Travel + Leisure, 8 June 2024 Studies that provide such a clear readout on philanthropic tactics are rare. Katherine Hempstead, STAT, 7 June 2024 According to The Los Angeles Times, black bear attacks on humans are rare in California, especially one that leads to death before this case – adding that the state is home to about 25,000-35,000 black bears. David Chiu, Peoplemag, 7 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for rare 

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

Word History


Adjective (1)

Middle English, from Latin rarus

Adjective (2)

alteration of earlier rere, from Middle English, from Old English hrēre boiled lightly; akin to Old English hrēran to stir, Old High German hruoren

First Known Use

Adjective (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Adjective (2)

1784, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rare was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near rare

Cite this Entry

“Rare.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rare. Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
ˈra(ə)r How to pronounce rare (audio)
rarer; rarest
: not thick or dense : thin
the atmosphere is rare at high altitudes
: very fine : excellent, splendid
a rare June day
: very uncommon
rain is rare in the desert
a collection of rare books
rareness noun


2 of 2 adjective
rarer; rarest
: cooked so that the inside is still red
rare roast beef


Middle English rare "thin," from Latin rarus "rare"


Old English hrēre "boiled lightly"

More from Merriam-Webster on rare

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