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[sel-duh m] /ˈsɛl dəm/
on only a few occasions; rarely; infrequently; not often:
We seldom see our old neighbors anymore.
rare; infrequent.
Origin of seldom
before 900; Middle English; Old English seldum, variant of seldan; cognate with German selten, Gothic silda-
Related forms
seldomness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for seldom
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He seldom speaks; but when he does, you are ever in his visions.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • He was a farmer's son, and seldom had any money in his possession.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • Uncle Brunton noticed the change; for to those who saw him seldom the change was sudden.

    Life in London Edwin Hodder
  • Wiseli's eyes shone with satisfaction as they seldom did nowadays.

    Rico and Wiseli Johanna Spyri
  • The term "gentleman" has seldom been used in this sense subsequently to the Revolution.

    A Book of Autographs Nathaniel Hawthorne
British Dictionary definitions for seldom


not often; rarely
Word Origin
Old English seldon; related to Old Norse sjāldan, Old High German seltan
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 seldom

late Old English seldum, alteration of seldan "seldom, rarely," from Proto-Germanic *selda- "strange, rare" (cf. Old Norse sjaldan, Old Frisian selden, Dutch zelden, Old High German seltan, German selten), perhaps ultimately from the base of self (q.v.).

Form shifted on analogy of adverbial dative plurals in -um (e.g. whilom "at one time," from while). The same development also created litlum from little, miclum from mickle. German seltsam "strange, odd," Dutch zeldzaam are related, but with the second element conformed to their versions of -some.

Seldom-times is from mid-15c. (Old English had seldhwanne "seldwhen"). Seldom-seen is from mid-15c. (Old English had seldsiene, "seld-seen").

Some compounds using the old form survived through Middle English, e.g. selcouth"rarely or little-known, unusual, strange, wonderful," from Old English selcuð, seld-cuð, from seldan + cuð (see couth). Old English seldan had comparative seldor, superlative seldost; in early Middle English, as seldan changed form and lost its connection with these, selde was formed as a positive. Shakespeare uses seld-shown.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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