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"It's rather cold outside"

I've recently heard this expression in a movie, but I didn't get the meaning of it. I've searched it on the Internet and found that different sites explained its meaning in different ways. I am a little bit confused what the speaker is trying to say using the word "rather"

It could be

"it is a little bit cold outside"

or

"it is too cold outside"

I think that it mainly depends on the situation when the speaker uses this word. Therefore, I would like to ask what are most common ways of using the word "rather".

  • I think the last edit took the point out of the question. The original question included '(...)I searched it on the Internet (...) I found that some sites are saying that rather means "quite, a little bit or to some extent" but some sites are saying that it means "to a notable extent, greatly".' This is gone now and the recent answer doesn't address this part of the question... @Varun did you consider that? – laugh Mar 24 '16 at 12:42
  • Have a look at Dce ldoceonline.com/dictionary/rather – rogermue Mar 24 '16 at 15:06
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This is a very commonly used word to express emphasis on the subject of conversation.

It is rather cold outside.

This simply means that it is 'fairly' cold outside.

This means that to a certain degree or extent, as per the speaker, it is cold outside. It neither means it is "a little bit" or "too" cold outside. From the speaker's perspective, it is cold. To what extent? That depends on the speaker.

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'Rather' means less than very. it's considered a synonym of 'quite' or 'fairly', but we often use it when something is a surprise.

Her cooking is rather good actually. (= better than I thought and a very nice surprise)

In your example, the speaker means

it's quite cold outside and it's a surprise (maybe he thought it would be warmer) or it's quite cold and the speaker doesn't like the situation i.e. he doesn't like it to be cold

so he says,

It's rather cold outside.

Let me put a continuum of adverbs of intensity here that I learnt somewhere. Not all adverbs are included though. Hope it can be useful. It gets stronger moving from 1 to 3.

  1. a bit/slightly -> less than quite

  2. quite/fairly/rather/pretty -> less than very

  3. very/extremely/incredibly/really

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