English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I found the word, ‘rare’ being used as a verb in the headline of today’s New York Times article – “An often procrastinating Congress is raring at the gate on tax cuts.” It is followed by this sentence:

It is a maxim in Congress these days: If high-profile legislation affecting millions of Americans is about to expire, deal with it at the last possible second. Both parties in the House and the Senate are eager at the prospect of voting for their respective versions of an extension of the cuts this summer, well before the due date.

As I’m not very familiar with the usage of ‘rare’ as a verb, I consulted with dictionaries online:

Oxford Dictionary defines ‘rare’ only as an adjective meaning ‘not occurring very often.’

Cambridge Dictionary defines it only as an adjective meaning ‘not common, very unusual.”

Merriam-Webster defines ‘rare’ as an adjective meaning; 1. marked by wide separation of component particles. 2. marked by unusual quality, merits, appeal. 3. seldom occurring or found.

OALED adds ‘meat cooked for only a short time so that the inside is still red' to the meaning of (1) ‘not happening very often, (2) existing only in small number.

Only Japanese publisher, Kenkyusha’s English Japanese Dictionary registers rare as a verb and ‘rare back’ as a slang meaning “brace for action, rouse oneself for action.”

Is “rare” used as a verb very often as used in “Congress is raring at the gate on tax cuts,” or “US and China are raring at the immigration of a Chinese blind lawyer”?

share|improve this question

closed as off-topic by Kris, David M, medica, MrHen, Bradd Szonye Mar 27 '14 at 23:18

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references" – Kris, David M, medica, Bradd Szonye
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Try to search for "raring"--it's an adjective, not a verb – simchona May 25 '12 at 8:51
@Yoichi: If you could provide links to the articles that form the basis of many of your questions, the additional context would save a step for those who are answering. Blockquoting larger quotes will also help your question formatting. I've edited in these changes as an example. – Callithumpian May 25 '12 at 12:01
"Raring to go" is not rare at all. – GEdgar May 25 '12 at 13:40
@simchona.I was assuming ‘raring’ only as a progressive form of ‘rare. I found OALD registers raring as adjective, meaning ‘eager, keen, enthusiastic, impatient, ready, (informal) dying, itching, gagging.’ Readers’ English Japanese Dictionary also defines it as adj. “longing for stg. eager to do stg. So I understood ‘raring’ in the above headline is adjective. Then a question arises: When we take this an adjective ‘raring,’ isn’t it missing an object (to do stg.) in the phrase -‘Congress is raring at the gate on tax cuts.’ In other word, Congress is raring (eager, ready) for what / what to do? – Yoichi Oishi May 25 '12 at 21:54
@Callithumpian. I've received the similar request from somebody of the site members. He told me how to indicate link. He said it’s easy. I followed his instruction, but it didn’t work thanks to my computer illiteracy at my age. I don’t know how to block the quote part, or change its background color as you did either. I know it save the answerers’ trouble if I can provide the link. I appreciate if someone reteach me 1. how to show link and 2. how to make larger block-quoting in the way I can do it. – Yoichi Oishi May 26 '12 at 1:37
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The OED’s elucidatory entry for raring is brief enough to post here in full:

raring, adj. and adv.

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈrɛːrɪŋ/, U.S. /ˈrɛrɪŋ/
Forms: see rare v. and -ing suffix²; also 18 r'arin', 18– r'aring.
Etymology: < rare v. + -ing suffix². Compare earlier rearing adj.

colloq. (orig. U.S. regional (south.)).

A. adj.

  1. Wild, angry; excited, spirited. Also as an intensifier: great. Freq. in rhyming collocation with tearing.

    • 1845 Amer. Whig Rev. Nov. 516/1 May-be he warn't in a rarin tarin tantrum!
    • 1851 ‘G. Seaworthy’ Bertie ix. 105 Ye see he's an all-fired, pepper and vinegar, hammer an' tongs, rarin' and tearin' abolitionist.
    • 1926 B. Reynolds Cocktail Continentale ii. 29 And they sure can fix up a rip-snotin', raring, tearing, hotsy-totsy time, honey boy.
    • 1942 J. Grenfell Let. 5 Dec. in Darling Ma (1989) 394 He was in raring form and told us some wonderful theatrical anecdotes about the Lunts.
    • 1945 L. Lenski Strawberry Girl ix. 112 Hit stoled a bunch of Ma's eggs and cracked 'em,‥and made her rarin'.
    • 2001 Birmingham Evening Mail (Nexis) 23 July 9 Teen idols BB Mak, the Honeyz and Point Break made the outdoor show a raring success.
  2. Eager, keen, fully ready to do something. Freq. in raring to go.

    • 1918 B. M. Bower Cabin Fever iv. 42 ‘Yuh ready?’ Foster's voice hissed in Bud's ear. ‘R'aring to go.’
    • 1927 F. N. Hart Bellamy Trial i. 10 Both sides are rarin' to go, and they are not liable to touch their peremptory challenges [of jurymen].
    • 1935 P. G. Wodehouse Luck of Bodkins xv. 167 Keep it crisp, because I'm raring to go.
    • 1957 A. MacNab Bulls of Iberia viii. 79 The bull was a toro de bandera, the bravest of the brave,‥and was ‘rarin' to fight’.
    • 1979 Church Times 9 Feb. 9/1 We were at the starting-gate and raring to go.
    • 2004 Business Week 26 Jan. 48/1 The highflier has been raring to get back into the big leagues.

B. adv.

As an intensifier: extremely, wildly, uncontrollably. Also in rhyming collocation with tearing.

  • 1854 J. M. Holmes Tempest & Sunshine xvi. 106, I shouldn't have been so rarin' mad, if it had been anybody besides you.
  • 1892 Atlantic Monthly Dec. 793/2 Yer paw‥went off‥r'arin' mad about the spring.
  • 1909 E. Banks Myst. Frances Farrington iv. 49 They make me raring, tearing mad to look at 'em.
  • 1961 C. McCullers Clock without Hands v. 94, I danced and sang and had a raring good time.
  • 2006 N. Devon Jrnl. (Nexis) 10 Aug. 6 Little Scottie is 'avin' some rarin' good fun.


raring, adj. and adv.
Third edition, December 2008; online version March 2012.
http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/238728; accessed 25 May 2012. This word was first included in A Supplement to the OED III, 1982, as a subentry of “rare, v.”

Yet another case of good ol’ General Reference; gosh, that old soldier sure gets around!

share|improve this answer
good ol’ General Reference; gosh, and such a long answer for that :) – Kris Mar 26 '14 at 6:02

Oxford Dictionaries Online has this, which can be expected to be an extract from OED:

raring (rar¦ing)
Pronunciation: /ˈrɛːrɪŋ/adjective
[with infinitive] informal very enthusiastic and eager to do something:

she was raring to get back to her work
I’ll be ready and raring to go

Origin: 1920s: present participle of rare, dialect variant of roar or rear2

It's possible to infer what "raring at the gate" means: "at the gate waiting for it to open, raring to go."

Raring at the gate is an unusual turn of phrase; but the NYT seems to be cited here quite regularly for its turns of phrase.

share|improve this answer
See my answer below for the full OED entry. I’m not completely convinced what you have is a distillation of that, given that there’s no mention of roar, for one thing. Not that that matters, I realize. – tchrist May 26 '12 at 7:56
"Raring at the gate" is not such an unusual turn of phrase. See Callithumpian on this page. – Kris Mar 26 '14 at 6:01
@Kris Raring to go is not unusual (as C notes). Raring at the gate is far less common. – Andrew Leach Mar 26 '14 at 7:34

Raring at the gate comes from horse racing. My New Shorter Oxford has this under raring:

Eager, keen, fully ready, to do.
Church Times We were at the starting-gate and raring to go.

However, raring or rearing is also used by horse riders to refer to a horse suddenly and disobediently raising up on its hind legs. This seems to happen at various gates apparently, not just at starting gates.

The phrase, or varying forms of it, sounds familiar to me and is not as rare as you might think.

share|improve this answer
flickr.com/photos/30815241@N03/2999908450 It is not all that uncommon for a racehorse or two to rear up as they're loading them into the starting gate. Those horses just want out of those stalls; sometimes they are literally raring to go. (And those jockeys are surely either brave or nuts!) – JLG May 26 '12 at 3:59

The adjective raring is derived from rear, and means to raise up. Used in the context you described, it would, as mentioned by Andrew Leach, denote eagerness or enthusiasm.

share|improve this answer

This is dumb. It's rearing. Horses at the gate, uncomfortable with the idea of being stuffed in a box, rear up, get up on their hind legs, in protest.

share|improve this answer
No. It's really not. – simchona May 25 '12 at 18:56

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.