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[prez-uh nt-lee] /ˈprɛz ənt li/
in a little while; soon:
They will be here presently.
at the present time; now:
He is presently out of the country.
Archaic. immediately.
Origin of presently
1350-1400; Middle English; see present1, -ly
Can be confused
currently, immediately, momentarily, now, presently, soon (see synonym study at immediately; see usage note at the current entry)
1. shortly, forthwith.
1. later.
Usage note
The two apparently contradictory meanings of presently, “in a little while, soon” and “at the present time, now,” are both old in the language. In the latter meaning presently dates back to the 15th century. It is currently in standard use in all varieties of speech and writing in both Great Britain and the United States. The sense “soon” arose gradually during the 16th century. Strangely, it is the older sense “now” that is sometimes objected to by usage guides. The two senses are rarely if ever confused in actual practice. Presently meaning “now” is most often used with the present tense (The professor is presently on sabbatical leave) and presently meaning “soon” often with the future tense (The supervisor will be back presently). The semantic development of presently parallels that of anon, which first had the meaning, now archaic, of “at once, immediately,” but later came to mean “soon.” Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for presently
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The plough looks a bit glum, but she'll grow to like us presently.

  • presently he took off his pince-nez and put them into his pocket.

    Jack O' Judgment Edgar Wallace
  • presently I heard the Arabs shouting to each other that there was a large sail in sight.

    Ned Garth W. H. G. Kingston
  • presently he too had finished, and again the Attorney-General rose.

    Jack O' Judgment Edgar Wallace
  • presently he was speaking with a simplicity and openness that he had not yet used with Katherine.

British Dictionary definitions for presently


in a short while; soon
at the moment
an archaic word for immediately
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 presently

late 14c., "immediately, at this time," from present (adj.) + -ly (2). By 1560s it had relaxed into "sooner or later."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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