General English

General Science

  • adjective existing only in small local populations
  • adjective not containing much oxygen, especially at high altitudes


  • adjective Cooked so that the inside of the meat is still red or pink


  • adjective referring to something such as a disease of which there are very few cases


  • adjective an all-purpose term of approbation, often employed as an exclamation by schoolchildren since the 1980s, especially in the north of England and Scotland. This sense of the word probably originated in black youth-culture in the USA and was transmitted via rap, skateboarding terminology, etc. Rare was previously used as a generalised vogue term in this way by mods briefly in 1966. It was used as long ago as the 16th century, with sporadic examples in between.
  • adjective unpleasant, unattractive, inappropriate. Probably a deliberate reversal of the earlier slang usage, since around 2000 this has been a vogue term of disapproval among UK teenagers.


  • adjective very lightly cooked

Origin & History of “rare”

Rare ‘uncommon’ (15th c.) and rare ‘underdone’ (17th c.) are not the same word. The former was borrowed from Latin rārus, which originally signified ‘having a loose texture, widely separated’ – hence ‘scarce’. It is not known what its ultimate source is. The latter is an alteration of the now obsolete rear ‘underdone’ (originally used mainly of eggs: ‘They had at their dinner rear eggs’, Book of the knight of the tower 1450), which goes back to Old English hrēragain of unknown origin.