Etymology
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rain forest (n.)

"dense forest in an area of high rainfall with little seasonal variation," 1899, apparently a loan-translation of German Regenwald, coined by A.F.W. Schimper for his 1898 work "Pflanzengeographie."

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raison d'etat (n.)

1869, from French raison d'état "reason of state," thus "convenience of the government." See reason (n.) + state (n.2).

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raison d'etre (n.)

"excuse for being," 1864, first recorded in letter of J.S. Mill, from French raison d'être, literally "rational grounds for existence."

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rank and file (n.)

1590s, in reference to the horizontal and vertical lines of soldiers marching in formation, from rank (n.) in the military sense of "number of soldiers drawn up in a line abreast" (1570s) + file (n.1). Thence generalized to "common soldiers" (1796) and "common people, general body" of any group (1860).

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rara avis (n.)

c. 1600, "peculiar person, person of a type seldom encountered," from Latin rara avis, literally "strange bird," from rara, fem. of rarus "rare" (see rare (adj.1)) + avis "bird" (see aviary). Latin plural is raræ aves. A phrase used of Horace's peacock (a Roman delicacy), Juvenal's black swan ("Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno"). A figure perhaps natural to the superstitious Romans, who divined by bird-watching.

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raree show 

"peep show contained in a box," 1680s, so called "in imitation of the foreign way of pronouncing rare show" [Johnson]. "Johnson's statement is prob. correct; the early exhibitors of peep-shows appear to have been usually Savoyards, from whom the form was no doubt adopted" [OED]. Compare German raritäten-kabinet "cabinet of curiosities or rarities." Early peep shows were more innocent than what usually was meant later by that term.

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rat fink (n.)
also ratfink, 1963, teen slang, see rat (n.) + fink (n.). Popularized by, and perhaps coined by, U.S. custom car builder Ed "Big Daddy" Roth (1932-2001), who made a hot-rod comic character of it, supposedly to lampoon Mickey Mouse.
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red cent (n.)

type of copper penny, 1839, American English, from red (adj.1) + cent. Pure copper pennies were issued 1793–1857, then replaced by ones of copper-nickel and, after 1864, bronze. The old cents were disused, but the phrase remained colloquial as a mere emphatic of cent, usually in the negative (don't have a ... not worth a ...). "Red" has been the color of copper, brass, and gold since ancient times.

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red cross (n.)

early 15c. as the national emblem of England (St. George's Cross), also the badge of the Order of the Temple. Hence red-cross knight, one bearing such a marking on shield or crest. In 17c., a red cross was the mark placed on the doors of London houses infected with the plague. The red cross was adopted as a symbol of ambulance service in 1864 by the Geneva Conference, and the Red Cross Society (later also, in Muslim lands, Red Crescent) philanthropic organization was founded to carry out the views of the 1864 conference as well as other works of relief.

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red herring (n.)

"smoked herring" early 15c. (they turn red when cured), as opposed to white herring "fresh herring." Supposedly used by fugitives to put bloodhounds off their scent (1680s), hence metaphoric sense (1864) of "something used to divert attention from the basic issue;" earlier it simply meant "a false lead":

Though I have not the honour of being one of those sagacious country gentlemen, who have so long vociferated for the American war, who have so long run on the red-herring scent of American taxation before they found out there was no game on foot; (etc.) [Parliamentary speech dated March 20, 1782, reprinted in "Beauties of the British Senate," London, 1786]
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