better1 /ˈbɛtə/


I. adjective

1. more desirable, satisfactory, or effective

we’re hoping for better weather tomorrow
the new facilities were far better
I’m better at doing sums than Alice.
[comparative of good.]
2. more appropriate, advantageous, or well advised

there couldn’t be a better time to take up this job
it might be better to borrow the money.
3. [ predic. or as complement] partly or fully recovered from illness, injury, or mental stress

his leg was getting better.
[comparative of well1.]
II. adverb

1. more excellently or effectively

Jonathon could do better if he tried
sound travels better in water than in air
instruments are generally better made these days.
2. to a greater degree; more (used in connection with success or with desirable actions or conditions)

I liked it better when we lived in the country
well-fed people are better able to fight off infection.
3. more suitably, appropriately, or usefully

the money could be better spent on more urgent cases.
III. noun

1. [ mass noun] the better one; that which is better

the Natural History Museum book is by far the better of the two
you’ve a right to expect better than that
a change for the better.
2. ( one’s betters)
‹chiefly dated›
‹humorous› one’s superiors in social class or ability

educating the young to respect their elders and betters.
IV. verb [with obj.]

1. improve on or surpass (an existing or previous level or achievement)

his account can hardly be bettered
bettering his previous time by ten minutes.
2. make (something) better; improve

his ideas for bettering the lot of the millhands.
3. ( better oneself) achieve a higher social position or status

the residents are mostly Londoners who have bettered themselves.
4. overcome or defeat (someone)

she had almost bettered him at archery.
V. phrases

1. the —— the better
used to emphasize the importance or desirability of the thing specified

the sooner we’re off the better.
2. better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know

‹proverb› it’s wiser to deal with an undesirable but familiar situation than to risk a change that might lead to an even worse situation.

any other man might be as unpleasant to live with—better the devil you know.
3. better off /ˌbɛtər ˈɒf /
in a more desirable or advantageous position, especially in financial terms

the proposals would make her about £400 a year better off.
4. the better part of
almost all of; most of

it is the better part of a mile.
5. better safe than sorry

‹proverb› it’s wiser to be cautious and careful than to be hasty or rash and so do something you may later regret.
6. better than

(N. Amer.) more than

he’d lived there for better than twenty years.
7. the better to ——
so as to —— better

he leaned closer the better to hear her.
8. for better or (for) worse
whether the outcome is good or bad.

ours, for better or for worse, is the century of youth.
9. get the better of
a. gain an advantage over or defeat (someone) by superior strength or ability

no one has ever got the better of her yet.
b. (of a feeling or urge) be too strong to conceal or resist

curiosity got the better of her.
10. go one better
a. narrowly surpass a previous effort or achievement

I want to go one better this time and score.
b. narrowly outdo (another person).

he went one better than Black by reaching the final.
11. had better do something
would find it wiser to do something; ought to do something

you had better be careful.
12. have the better of
be more successful in (a contest)

Attlee had the better of these exchanges.
13. no (or little) better than
just (or almost) the same as (something bad); merely

viceroys who were often no better than bandits.
14. no better than one should (or ought to) be
regarded as sexually promiscuous or of doubtful moral character.
– origin Old English betera (adjective), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch beter and German besser, also to best. / usage: In the verb phrase had better do something the word had acts like an auxiliary verb, and in informal spoken contexts it is often dropped, as in you better not come tonight. In writing, the had may be contracted to ‘d but should not be dropped altogether.

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