conjunction \ t͟hən , ˈt͟han \
|Updated on: 13 Jul 2018

Definition of than

1 a 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 am
  • easier 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 1b used especially after scarcely and hardly

Origin and Etymology of than

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




Definition of than

: in comparison with
  • you are older than me

Is than a conjunction or preposition?

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 Faulknerin 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.

Recent Examples of than from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'than.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of than


in the meaning defined above

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

THAN Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of than for English Language Learners

  • : when compared to

THAN Defined for Kids


conjunction \ t͟hən , ˈt͟han \

Definition of than for Students

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

Learn More about than

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


a downward inclination or slope

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a-pile-of-three-dimensional-shapes-in-green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


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!