"You canker blossom!" 3 Shakespearean Insults


[hahrd-lee] /ˈhɑrd li/
only just; almost not; barely:
We had hardly reached the lake when it started raining. hardly any; hardly ever.
not at all; scarcely:
That report is hardly surprising.
with little likelihood:
He will hardly come now.
forcefully or vigorously.
with pain or difficulty.
British. harshly or severely.
Origin of hardly
1175-1225; Middle English; Old English heardlice. See hard, -ly
Can be confused
barely, hardly, scarcely (see synonym study at the current entry)
Synonym Study
1. Hardly, barely, scarcely imply a narrow margin by which performance was, is, or will be achieved. Hardly, though often interchangeable with scarcely and barely, usually emphasizes the idea of the difficulty involved: We could hardly endure the winter. Barely emphasizes the narrowness of the margin of safety, “only just and no more”: We barely succeeded. Scarcely implies a very narrow margin, below satisfactory performance: He can scarcely read.
Usage note
1, 3. Hardly, barely, and scarcely all have a negative connotation, and the use of any of them with a negative like can't or couldn't is often condemned as a double negative and thus considered nonstandard: I can't hardly wait. Such constructions do occur occasionally in the speech of educated persons, often with jocular intent (You can't hardly get that kind any more) but are not found in formal speech or writing. When hardly in the sense “only just, almost not” is followed by a clause, the usual word to introduce the clause is when: The telephone had hardly stopped ringing when (not than) the doorbell rang. See also double negative. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for hardly
  • The sort of thing that used to happen only in fiction can hardly compare to what's in the news today.
  • But his ambitions could hardly be realized by a nation at war with itself.
  • The threat to his life's work could hardly have come at a worse moment.
  • My point is that common naming traditions are hardly inaccurate.
  • The caging they were being housed in was adequate but hardly engaging.
  • Here and there, a dead bat lies on the ground, the bodies hardly more substantial than dried leaves.
  • Since no one owns property, no one pays property taxes, and the parking situation could hardly be improved.
  • Computers are hardly the only electronic hardware hounded by obsolescence.
  • Head down, hunched over, hardly seeing where he's going.
  • But then, as results showed, their counterparts in other countries were hardly star students.
British Dictionary definitions for hardly


scarcely; barely: we hardly knew the family
just; only just: he could hardly hold the cup
(often ironic) almost or probably not or not at all: he will hardly incriminate himself
with difficulty or effort
(rare) harshly or cruelly
Usage note
Since hardly, scarcely, and barely already have negative force, it is redundant to use another negative in the same clause: he had hardly had (not he hadn't hardly had) time to think; there was scarcely any (not scarcely no) bread left
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hardly

c.1200, "in a hard manner, with great exertion or effort," from Old English heardlic "stern, severe, harsh; bold, warlike" (see hard + -ly (2)). Hence "assuredly, certainly" (early 14c.). Main modern sense of "barely, just" (1540s) reverses this, via the intermediate meaning "not easily, with trouble" (early 15c.). Formerly with superficial negative (not hardly).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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