Rarer or More Rare? (Comparative and Superlative Forms)

You may have come across two comparative forms of the word “rare”, which are “rarer” and “more rare”, and doubted which is correct. This page explains the difference between the terms and shows them both in contextual examples.

Rarer or More Rare – What’s the Comparative Form of “Rare”?

The Oxford Dictionary lists “rarer” are the comparative form of “rare”, which matches the rule of adding “-er” to the end of short words. Furthermore, the superlative form is “rarest” rather than “most rare”, although the use of the latter is often to make the text sound less awkward.

Rarer or More Rare

Usually, in English, when the word is a short word like “fast”, “slow”, or “rare”, the comparative is formed by adding “-er” to the end of the word. However, there are words such as “strict” and “rare” for which both comparative forms are common.

The word “rare” is found in the Cambridge Dictionary, which states that it relates to something uncommon; however, it doesn’t contain a listing for the word “rarer.” The Oxford Dictionary states that “rarer” is the comparative form and does not contain a listing for “more rare.”

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Rarest or Most Rare – What’s the Superlative Form of “Rare”?

According to the standard rules for comparatives and superlatives, a word such as “rare” is modified into a superlative by adding “-st” to the end of the term. Therefore the correct superlative form of “rare” is “rarest.”

However, the word “rare”, as with other terms such as “strict”, is a slight exception to this rule because people use both superlative forms frequently.

Here are some examples of how the two forms appear:

  • The truffles were the rarest kind which is why they were so expensive.
  • He gave her a ring with one of the most rare precious stones embedded.

It should also be mentioned that the term “most rare” has a slightly different meaning aside from the superlative. Sometimes the word “most” is added before “rare” not to signify that it is the “rarest” of all but rather to indicate that something is “extremely rare” or “strange” in some way.

For example:

  • His behaviour last night was most rare and out of character.
  • She has a most rare ability to make people feel at ease when she speaks.

What Are the Different Forms of “Rare”?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word “rare” means something uncommon, unusual, or infrequent. Although “rarest” and “rarer” are the standard superlative and comparative, there are other ways of expressing both the superlative and comparative.

The two different forms of each are used frequently, although the default versions would be “rarest” and “rarer.”

Here are the different forms of the word “rare”:


  • Rarer
  • More/less rare


  • Rarest
  • Most/least rare

Is “Rarer” a Word?

The word “rarer” is the correct comparative form of the word “rare.” Sometimes people use “more/less rare” instead of “rarer”, but the default version of the comparative is “rarer.”

Sometimes people prefer to use “more rare” because the word “rarer” can sometimes sound stylistically awkward depending on which other words are around it.

Here are some examples of how “rarer” looks in a sentence:

  • Since 1900 efforts have been made to mine rarer metals.
  • This type of painting style is much rarer than his previous style.
  • Teak is a far rarer type of wood than pine.

Is “Rarest” a Word?

The word “rarest” is the superlative form of “rare” and is commonly used in modern English. At times, some people prefer to use “most rare” instead of “rarest”, but the latter is the standard form of the superlative because “rare” is a short word.

Furthermore, electing to use “most rare” instead of “rarest” is often a stylistic decision based on which words appear before or after the formation of “rare.”

For example, if several other words begin with “r” before “rarer”, it can sound a little awkward, so people sometimes opt for “the most rare” in order to break up the sound of multiple instances of the letter “r.”

Here are some examples of how “rarest” appears in a sentence:

  • The diamonds stolen in the robbery were among the rarest in the world.
  • One of the rarest trees in the UK is the black poplar.
  • The Botanical Gardens has a greenhouse that contains the rarest plant species worldwide.

Which Forms Are Used the Most?

The Google Ngram shows that out of the four terms, “rarer” and “rarest” are the most commonly used, which is not terribly surprising since they are the standard comparative and superlative forms.

Rarer or More Rare usage

However, the terms “more rare” and “most rare” have still appeared enough in literature over the last one hundred and twenty years that they would rarely be classed as “incorrect.”

Final Thoughts

The correct and standard comparative and superlative forms of “rare” are “rarer” and “rarest”, respectively. However, it is also pretty standard for people to use “more rare” and “most rare” to mean the same thing, although it is often done to make the text sound less awkward.