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rap·​id ˈra-pəd How to pronounce rapid (audio)
: marked by a fast rate of motion, activity, succession, or occurrence
rapidly adverb
rapidness noun


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: a part of a river where the current is fast and the surface is usually broken by obstructions
usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
Choose the Right Synonym for rapid

fast, rapid, swift, fleet, quick, speedy, hasty, expeditious mean moving, proceeding, or acting with celerity.

fast and rapid are very close in meaning, but fast applies particularly to the thing that moves

fast horses

and rapid to the movement itself.

rapid current

swift suggests great rapidity coupled with ease of movement.

returned the ball with one swift stroke

fleet adds the implication of lightness and nimbleness.

fleet runners

quick suggests promptness and the taking of little time.

a quick wit

speedy implies quickness of successful accomplishment

speedy delivery of mail

and may also suggest unusual velocity.

hasty suggests hurry and precipitousness and often connotes carelessness.

a hasty inspection

expeditious suggests efficiency together with rapidity of accomplishment.

the expeditious handling of an order

Example Sentences

Adjective There's been rapid growth in the number of new businesses in the town. Scientists are concerned about the rapid disappearance of the island's coral reefs. She carefully guided the boat through the rapid water.
Recent Examples on the Web
But most experts acknowledge that the Jorōs must be having some effect, especially because of their rapid population growth. Katrina Miller, WIRED, 5 Dec. 2022 With Tennessee’s rapid growth and truck traffic, state transportation officials say $26 billion in projects are needed to address worsening congestion, and only $3.6 billion of it is planned under a big swipe at roads by Lee’s predecessor. Jonathan Mattise, Fortune, 4 Dec. 2022 The Whatcheeria’s rapid juvenile growth came as a surprise to the team, Otoo said. Orlando Mayorquin, USA TODAY, 1 Dec. 2022 Reflecting this rapid growth, the Red Sea fest, Saudi’s first film event and market with international ambitions, has a lineup of more than 100 titles comprising a rich mix of film premieres from the Arab world, Africa and Asia. Nick Vivarelli, Variety, 30 Nov. 2022 The political risk-taking paid off, reshaping the global economy and ushering in another decade of rapid Chinese growth. Charles Hutzler And Jason Dean, WSJ, 30 Nov. 2022 Those efforts paid off as China transformed into a global manufacturing powerhouse and secured greater foreign investment, though the rapid economic growth also contributed to rising inequality. Jennifer Jett, NBC News, 30 Nov. 2022 Her predecessors built on more favorable terrain: Van Buren’s coalition benefited from universal suffrage for white men, and Hanna’s from the rapid growth of manufacturing. Michael Kazin, The New Republic, 23 Nov. 2022 India is much less wealthy than China, which has enjoyed four decades of rapid growth, so Delhi cannot invest as much in environmental cleanup. Keith Bradsher, New York Times, 22 Nov. 2022
The early rapid that destroyed one boat became known as Disaster Falls. Mike Bezemek, Outside Online, 22 Aug. 2019 This becomes clear about 45 minutes after scouting Warm Springs, when one of the guides gets caught in a hole toward the end of the rapid. Rachel Walker, Washington Post, 4 Aug. 2022 Shawn is a very experienced rafter, but thanks to this chain of events, he and my seven-year-old daughter, Hollis, were suddenly headed toward a Class IV rapid called Velvet Falls, an infamous bottomless hydraulic that eats swimmers. Tracy Ross, Outside Online, 2 Nov. 2020 There is a definitive need for rapid-acting, effective treatments. Kathleen Frazier, Variety, 20 May 2022 Among the tips: People who have COVID-19 symptoms who test negative on their first rapid, at-home test should take additional tests to double-check the result. Martin Finucane, BostonGlobe.com, 19 May 2022 There’s not a single rapid in 100 river miles between Ruby Ranch, through Canyonlands National Park, to the confluence with the Colorado River, making this the most mellow of family flat-water floats. Katie Arnold, Outside Online, 25 July 2014 On one commercial trip, while the rest of the guides and clients portaged the rafts along the bank of a Class VI rapid called Number 9, Coetzee, without telling anyone, ran it in his kayak. Grayson Schaffer, Outside Online, 7 Feb. 2011 Sabine Heller, the chief commercial officer for Sollis, told me that the concierge service has expanded since then, with members now enjoying unlimited rapid, PCR, and antibody testing as well as monoclonal antibody treatments and other services. Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic, 13 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rapid.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



borrowed from French & Latin; French rapide, going back to Middle French, borrowed from Latin rapidus "(of water) flowing violently enough to sweep anything along in its path, swiftly moving, quick," from rapere "to seize and carry off, carry or sweep along" + -idus, adjective suffix; rapere perhaps going back to pre-Latin *rep-, secondary zero-grade from presumed *erp-, going back to Indo-European *h1rp-, zero-grade of a base *h1rep- "seize, pluck," whence also Lithuanian aprė́piu, aprė́pti "to surround, include," Albanian rjep "removes, robs," Greek ereptómenos "feeding on, devouring"


borrowed from French rapide, noun derivative of rapide, adjective, "swiftly moving, rapid entry 1"

First Known Use


1634, in the meaning defined above


1765, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rapid was in 1634

Dictionary Entries Near rapid

Cite this Entry

“Rapid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rapid. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
rap·​id ˈrap-əd How to pronounce rapid (audio)
: very fast
rapidly adverb
rapidness noun


2 of 2 noun
: a part of a river where the current flows fast usually over rocks
usually used in plural

More from Merriam-Webster on rapid

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