hard·​ly | \ ˈhärd-lē How to pronounce hardly (audio) \

Definition of hardly

1a 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!
b : by a narrow margin of time : only just We've hardly begun.
c : almost not I can hardly believe it! She was hardly able to control her excitement.
d : 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
e informal used to soften a negative … you can't hardly tell who anyone is or isn't.— George Bernard Shaw
2 dated : with difficulty : painfully … where the means of existence was wrung so hardly from the soil …— Sir Winston Churchill
3 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)
4 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.” See More
Recent Examples on the Web Long hours and tight deadlines are hardly novel at fast-growing tech companies like this, nor is a skewed sleep cycle rare for employees of foreign firms. Georgia Wells, WSJ, 6 May 2022 To sum it up, Kaley could hardly choke out more than a laugh and knee-slapping reaction for each outfit Andy resurfaced from the early 2000s. Rebecca Norris, Good Housekeeping, 6 May 2022 My brain, hardly a high-performance machine on its best days, had turned to porridge, and I was easily fatigued, which often forced me to stretch out in bed like Boris Yeltsin lying in state. Mark Shanahan, BostonGlobe.com, 6 May 2022 While even the most serious of today’s allegations hardly compare, the resonance runs deep, amid a conflict that has opened unclosed historical wounds. Washington Post, 5 May 2022 Many of Hong’s films are in black-and-white; even the ones that are in color are hardly memorably so. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 5 May 2022 Approximately 600 multinational companies have departed Russia and slammed the door behind them, hardly glancing at their force majeure and material adverse change clauses on their way out. Alexandra Wrage, Forbes, 5 May 2022 So far, at least, hardly anyone’s actually doing it. Matthew Boyle, Fortune, 5 May 2022 Since the Reds have been trailing early in games so consistently, the Reds' best relievers have hardly had the chance to pitch in the most high-leverage moments of the game. Charlie Goldsmith, The Enquirer, 5 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of hardly

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

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Time Traveler for hardly

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near hardly



hardly ever

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Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Hardly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hardly. Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for hardly


hard·​ly | \ ˈhärd-lē How to pronounce hardly (audio) \

Kids Definition of hardly

: only just : barely I can hardly hear you.

More from Merriam-Webster on hardly

Nglish: Translation of hardly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hardly for Arabic Speakers


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