I am translating a Canadian article, and here's a sentence I need some help with:

There are innumerable colour choices when choosing gladioli corms but until recent years, those colours classed as smoky, were quite rare and hard to find.

My question is: does "quite rare" mean "very rare" or "fairly rare"? I know this "quite" ambiguity is a popular issue, but most of the info I've found focuses on the BE and AE, and this article is Canadian.

Many thanks in advance!

  • 1
    What do you mean by the difference between fairly and very? Is it quantitative? (And I'm not Canadian, but my instinct says very.)
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 23, 2015 at 17:08
  • I used "fairly", meaning "to some extent", "more or less", that is, if smth is fairly rare, there are more chances of finding it than if it is very rare. Sep 23, 2015 at 17:13

1 Answer 1


"Quite" is an interesting word, in that it can mean both "completely" (as in "quite the opposite") or "considerably" (as in "quite unusual").

In this case it means "considerably". The only clear indication of this is that "completely rare" doesn't make sense. (If something were "completely rare" it wouldn't be "rare", it would be "absent").

This is the case in both Canadian and British English.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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