[ hahrd-lee ]
/ ˈhɑrd li /
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Origin of hardly

1175–1225; Middle English; Old English heardlice.See hard, -ly

synonym study for hardly

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 for hardly

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.


barely, hardly , scarcely (see synonym study at the current entry)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use hardly in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for hardly

/ (ˈhɑːdlɪ) /

scarcely; barelywe hardly knew the family
just; only justhe could hardly hold the cup
often ironic almost or probably not or not at allhe will hardly incriminate himself
with difficulty or effort
rare harshly or cruelly

usage for hardly

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