There are 2 main definitions of better in English:

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better 1

Pronunciation: /ˈbɛtə/


1More 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
More example sentences
  • The high street is getting better at delivering good, fashionable styles and is great for an instant trend hit.
  • Get someone else to do it preferably someone who is better at it than you are.
  • Now does that mean we all can't be a little better at what we do or be a little more responsible?
superior, finer, of higher quality, greater, in a different class, one step ahead;
more acceptable, preferable, recommended
informal a cut above, streets ahead, head and shoulders above, ahead of the pack/field
1.1More 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
More example sentences
  • My message is that hostility can be turned to our advantage if we're better, smarter, wiser at the end of the season.
  • Both the winner and the runner-up will be seen to better advantage over a longer trip.
  • The runner up came from a long way back and should be seen to better advantage over an extended trip.
more advantageous, more suitable, more fitting, more appropriate, more useful, more valuable, more desirable
2 [predicative or as complement] Partly or fully recovered from illness, injury, or mental stress: his leg was getting better
Comparative of well1
More example sentences
  • She also says that where she is now is better because of recovery and rehabilitation facilities.
  • Wishing both a great time and hoping that Jim's hand injury will soon get better.
  • Sadly, a lot of this is due to the over use of antibiotics for illnesses which would get better on their own.
healthier, fitter, stronger, less ill;
convalescent, recovering, on the road to recovery, making progress, progressing, improving


1More 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
More example sentences
  • Sound travels better and faster in water than in air, so the sea is a perfect place for acoustic advertising.
  • Whilst sound carries better in water than in air, that hasn't stopped mammals from using sonar in the air too.
  • Men should travel to associate themselves better with the outside world and to find their place within it.
to a higher standard, in a superior/finer way
1.1To 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
More example sentences
  • Cue Andrew, whose style of bowling suited the conditions far better.
  • As the rain fell Carrickmore seemingly were able to cope with the adverse conditions better.
  • Hopefully, the world will be better able to live with itself in peace.
more, to a greater degree
1.2More suitably, appropriately, or usefully: the money could be better spent on more urgent cases
More example sentences
  • Won't all of it be money that could be better spent fixing schools and hospitals instead?
  • They say the money and time would be better spent trying to change sexual behaviour.
  • Young believes profits are better spent finding and targeting new niches.
more wisely, more sensibly, more suitably, more fittingly, more advantageously
Comparative of well1


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
More example sentences
  • The world has been actively and consciously changed for the better in the past.
  • Education brings about dialogue and hence the society could be changed for the better.
  • I have high hopes that he will be able to change the way we look at sports, for the better.
2 (one's betters) chiefly dated or humorous One’s superiors in social class or ability: educating the young to respect their elders and betters
More example sentences
  • They are respected members of the community and for his family to see him ignoring and jeering his elders and betters is very disappointing.
  • It is important to keep a sense of proportion about these things and, it seems to me, there are times when our elders and betters lose the run of themselves.
  • Even the Parrot aimed to inculcate the habits of godliness and good behaviour, consideration for others, respect for ones elders and betters.


[with object]
1Improve on or surpass (an existing or previous level or achievement): his account can hardly be bettered bettering his previous time by ten minutes
More example sentences
  • The 22-year-old then bettered her three previous performances at the French Open by beating the 10th seed en-route to the third round.
  • The apparent ease at which he was scoring suggested he would have gone beyond the 300 barrier, but he was content with bettering his previous test-best score by exactly 100.
  • He was unlucky not to receive an Oscar nomination for his touching and subtle performance, which betters any of his previous work.
1.1Make (something) better; improve: his ideas for bettering the lot of the millhands
More example sentences
  • When workers do make meaningful advances against their local employers by modestly improving their wages or bettering their working conditions, the subcontracts are not as lucrative for the local elites.
  • Exploiting the public is not leading it; satisfying its passions or sanctioning its ideas is not bettering them; and we understand… the heart of the people and their ideas.
  • Eckstein worked all offseason to improve his range by bettering his footwork and getting good jumps on the ball.
improve, make better, ameliorate, raise, advance, further, lift, upgrade, enhance;
reform, rectify
rare meliorate
1.2 (better oneself) Achieve a higher social position or status: the residents are mostly Londoners who have bettered themselves
More example sentences
  • Some black immigrants, who originally came to Canada to better themselves and have now achieved middle-class status, prefer assimilation over heritage.
  • Social mobility - people bettering themselves and so moving upwards through the ‘class' structure, surely a hallmark of any healthy and just society - has been halted in its tracks.
  • Try reasoning with him, explaining your targets in life and what you would like to achieve and better yourself.
1.3Overcome or defeat (someone): she had almost bettered him at archery
More example sentences
  • In those appearances, she was bettered by two other competitors.
  • And now I'll never have to be reminded of your bettering me again.
  • Yet he was also bettered by Parker when I saw them spar.


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.



the —— the better

Used to emphasize the importance or desirability of the thing specified: the sooner we’re off the better
More example sentences
  • Hilberg proudly declares himself to be ‘a brute-force man’ undaunted by abundance: ‘the more paper in the files the better.’
  • Scott's 28 now, so the quicker we get the fights the better.
  • Moving to the full-backs, he recommends ‘safe men, tried and true ‘and the more powerful the kicks of the backs the better.’

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

better off

In a more desirable or advantageous position, especially in financial terms: the proposals would make her about £400 a year better off
More example sentences
  • Rachel added that getting a job wasn't always about being financially better off.
  • So you'll be financially better off with a car if you don't actually need the bigger vehicle.
  • So the more you can subtract negatives and add positives the better off you are.

the better part of

Almost all of; most of: it is the better part of a mile
More example sentences
  • I spent the better part of two hours sending my friends out into the cold of a snowstorm digitally.
  • I spent the better part of today watching the England cricket team come agonizingly close to an improbable victory.
  • She hasn't seen him for the better part of three years since he's been confined here.

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.
Example sentences
  • As he clambered for a retort, he said something he instantly regretted: ‘Well, better safe than sorry.’
  • ‘It is better safe than sorry on something like this,’ he said.
  • It is even opposing inclusion of the ‘precautionary principle’ in assessing developments - better safe than sorry - despite the fact that this was agreed in essence at the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago.

better than

North American More than: he’d lived there for better than twenty years

be better than nothing

Used to indicate that having something inferior to what one wanted or expected is preferable to having nothing at all: the suit is about three sizes too big but it’s better than nothing
More example sentences
  • It's not an exact science of course, but it's better than nothing.
  • If you can't afford anything, then cheap junk is a lot better than nothing.
  • The fluorescent bulb would obviously be dimmer than a 300 watt spot lamp, but it would be better than nothing.

the better to ——

So as to —— better: he leaned closer the better to hear her
More example sentences
  • I lift myself on my elbows the better to hear the rest of their conversation.
  • He gripped my hand and pulled me slightly towards him, the better to hear, and I remember thinking that he smelt very nice.
  • So we stepped outside, blinking in the suddenly warm sunlight, and leaned our heads against the door, the better to hear the conversation going on inside.

for better or (for) worse

Whether the outcome is good or bad: ours, for better or for worse, is the century of youth
More example sentences
  • Altair sensed no hostility in the man's tone of voice, and decided to give his full name, whether for better or for worse.
  • Its outcome will, for better or for worse, change the quality of life in this country.
  • Whether or not you buy into those particular labels, for better or worse, we tend to fulfil the self-images we're fed.

get the better of

Gain an advantage over or defeat (someone) by superior strength or ability: no one has ever got the better of her yet
More example sentences
  • But in one world people gain utility by getting the better of someone else, and in the other world, they gain utility by helping other people out.
  • When it comes to mind games, he can give up any idea of ever getting the better of his opponent.
  • Have you ever tried to get the better of a comedian?
10.1(Of a feeling or urge) be too strong to conceal or resist: curiosity got the better of her
More example sentences
  • I urged her on, my curiosity getting the better of me.
  • The urge to quantify things gets the better of us, and we attach numbers to things that either aren't measured well or can't be measured at all.
  • Why he left it there in the first place I don't know, but seeing it there made my curiosity get the better of me again.

go one better

Narrowly surpass a previous effort or achievement: I want to go one better this time and score
More example sentences
  • But the French are here, and won't accept anything less than going one better than their shock effort in 1999, in which they progressed to the final.
  • Now everyone is really thrilled to have gone one better in achieving All Ireland honours.
  • In particular, he hoped to go one better than was achieved at the group's Brindley Place development in Birmingham, where members of the public raised £50m to invest in the property.
11.1Narrowly outdo (another person): he went one better than Black by reaching the final
More example sentences
  • They kicked 12 wides in all but their opponents outdid them in that department went one better with 13.
  • The five-year-old is napped to go one better, following a narrow defeat at the same course last week.
  • They went one better than having a failed film star as president, and now have as head of state someone who is a complete and utter failure at everything other than being a complete loser.

had better do something

Would find it wiser to do something; ought to do something: you had better be careful
More example sentences
  • If the FA thinks that was bad, they had better do something soon.
  • But they had better do something about this quick.
  • Mrs Hancock, said: ‘We will put £1m-plus into this on the grounds that if we're going to do it, we had better do it properly.

have the better of

Be more successful in (a contest): Attlee had the better of these exchanges
More example sentences
  • The second game was a much closer contest with Grange having the better of the exchanges until midway through the second half when Kilbride rallied with some good scoring to force a draw.
  • The 18-year-old defender, sent off when the sides met at Ibrox in November, scored just two minutes into a match that Aberdeen went on to have the better of.
  • In truth, they stalled as the second half spawned something of a role reversal and Lincoln had the better of what followed.

no (or little) better than

Just (or almost) the same as (something bad); merely: viceroys who were often no better than bandits
More example sentences
  • The fuel efficiency per passenger mile travelled by train is no better than that of an average diesel car carrying two people.
  • The rides are good, but no better than what's on offer at Alton Towers.
  • My Spanish no better than when I left England, I beckoned towards the hostel address in my guidebook.

no better than one should (or ought to) be

Regarded as sexually promiscuous or of doubtful moral character.
Example sentences
  • You are no better than you should be, some people say; which means, you are so bad they would not like to say what you are.


Old English betera (adjective), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch beter and German besser, also to best.

Words that rhyme with better

abetter, begetter, bettor, biretta, bruschetta, carburettor (US carburetor), debtor, feta, fetter, forgetter, getter, go-getter, Greta, Henrietta, letter, Loretta, mantelletta, operetta, petter, Quetta, setter, sinfonietta, sweater, upsetter, Valletta, vendetta, whetter

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: bet¦ter

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There are 2 main definitions of better in English:

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better 2

Pronunciation: /ˈbɛtə/


Variant spelling of bettor.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: bet¦ter

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