\ t͟hən, ˈt͟han How to pronounce than (audio) \

Definition of than

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a used as a function word to indicate the second member or the member taken as the point of departure in a comparison expressive of inequality used with comparative adjectives and comparative adverbs older than I ameasier said than done
b used as a function word to indicate difference of kind, manner, or identity used especially with some adjectives and adverbs that express diversity anywhere else than at home
2 : rather than usually used only after prefer, preferable, and preferably
3 : other than
4 : when sense 1b used especially after scarcely and hardly

Definition of than (Entry 2 of 2)

: in comparison with you are older than me

Is than a conjunction or preposition?: Usage Guide


After 200 years of innocent if occasional use, the preposition than was called into question by 18th century grammarians. Some 200 years of elaborate reasoning have led to these present-day inconsistent conclusions: than whom is standard but clumsy T. S. Eliot, than whom nobody could have been more insularly English — Anthony Burgess ; than me may be acceptable in speech a man no mightier than thyself or me — William Shakespeare why should a man be better than me because he's richer than me — William Faulkner, in a talk to students ; than followed by a third-person objective pronoun (her, him, them) is usually frowned upon. Surveyed opinion tends to agree with these conclusions. Our evidence shows that than is used as a conjunction more commonly than as a preposition, that than whom is chiefly limited to writing, and that me is more common after the preposition than the third-person objective pronouns. In short, you can use than either as a conjunction or as a preposition.

First Known Use of than


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1560, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for than


Middle English than, then then, than — more at then entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for than

English Language Learners Definition of than

: when compared to
\ t͟hən How to pronounce than (audio) , ˈt͟han\

Kids Definition of than

: when compared to the way in which, the extent to which, or the degree to which You are older than I am.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on than

Spanish Central: Translation of than

Nglish: Translation of than for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of than for Arabic Speakers

Comments on than

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


a tendency to relapse

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!