hard·​ly ˈhärd-lē How to pronounce hardly (audio)
used to emphasize a minimal amount or degree
I hardly knew her. [=I didn't know her well at all.]
It's almost new—there's hardly a scratch [=there are almost no scratches] on it.
There's been hardly any [=almost no] news.
There's hardly any [=almost none] left.
Hardly anyone [=almost no one] showed up.
We hardly ever [=almost never] see you these days!
: by a narrow margin of time : only just
We've hardly begun.
: almost not
I can hardly believe it!
She was hardly able to control her excitement.
: certainly not
That news is hardly surprising.
That hardly seems fair. [=that certainly does not seem fair]
If you're satisfied with what you've got, you're hardly going to look for anything better.Flannery O'Connor
used to soften a negative
… you can't hardly tell who anyone is or isn't.George Bernard Shaw
dated : with difficulty : painfully
… where the means of existence was wrung so hardly from the soil …Sir Winston Churchill
dated : in a severe manner : harshly
Things may go hardly with us … before the war is over.Nevil Shute
… he ranted on in a towering passion of wrath and grief. … He believed himself hardly used indeed.E. Barrington (Elizabeth Louisa Moresby Beck)
archaic : with force : vigorously
… earrings jangling down hardly on diminutive gold chains …Osbert Sitwell
Can hardly be used with a negative?: Usage Guide

Hardly in sense 1d is used sometimes with not for emphasis.

Just another day at the office? Not hardly.

In sense 1e with a negative verb (such as can't, wouldn't, didn't) it does not make a double negative but softens the negative. In "you can't hardly find a red one," the sense is that you can find a red one, but only with difficulty; in "you can't find a red one," the sense is that red ones are simply not available. Use of hardly with a negative verb is a speech form; it is most commonly heard in Southern and Midland speech areas. In other speech areas and in all discursive prose, hardly is normally used with a positive.

You can hardly find a red one.

Examples of hardly in a Sentence

It hardly matters what I think. The changes in service have hardly been noticed. There are hardly any new features in this software. Hardly anyone showed up for the meeting. Hardly a day goes by when I don't think about you. This is hardly a new idea for a movie. “Is this a new idea for a movie?” “Hardly! I've seen dozens of movies just like it.”
Recent Examples on the Web The Hammered Satin Slip Dress This satin slip dress will help you to achieve a slightly more sultry nighttime look, all while hardly taking up any real estate in your suitcase. Merrell Readman, Travel + Leisure, 13 Apr. 2024 Nate Home by Nate Berkus hardly ever goes on sale at Amazon, so don't miss the assortment of markdowns happening now. Clara McMahon, Peoplemag, 12 Apr. 2024 Still, the mood on the Geek Squad subreddit—hardly a scientific sample but indicative of sentiment—was glum. Eoin Higgins, Fortune, 12 Apr. 2024 News coverage reflected a growing — though hardly universal — sentiment that this trial could be payback for the criminal acquittal. David Wharton, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2024 However, research from economic professors at UC Berkeley and the University of Victoria argues the data from past minimum wage gains hardly affected fast-food chains, helped retain workers and price increases were marginal. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Apr. 2024 This year, security is tight and hardly anyone is allowed to cross into Israel. Rob Schmitz, NPR, 12 Apr. 2024 Indeed, in recent decades, Congress has hardly ever stuck to that timeline. Kaia Hubbard, CBS News, 11 Apr. 2024 In some ways, the fate of legalized pot could be read as a cautionary tale for how these drugs, too, could be left in a limbo that hardly anyone really likes. Jane C. Hu, The Atlantic, 8 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hardly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Time Traveler
The first known use of hardly was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near hardly

Cite this Entry

“Hardly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hardly. Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


hard·​ly ˈhärd-lē How to pronounce hardly (audio)
: in a severe or harsh manner
deal hardly with them
: with difficulty
a hardly won victory
: only just : barely, scarcely
we hardly knew them
: certainly not
that news is hardly surprising

More from Merriam-Webster on hardly

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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