[ hahrd-lee ]
See synonyms for hardly on Thesaurus.com
  1. only just; almost not; barely: We had hardly reached the lake when it started raining. hardly any; hardly ever.

  2. not at all; scarcely: That report is hardly surprising.

  1. with little likelihood: He will hardly come now.

  2. forcefully or vigorously.

  3. with pain or difficulty.

  4. British. harshly or severely.

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.

Words that may be confused with hardly

Words Nearby hardly

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use hardly in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for hardly


/ (ˈhɑːdlɪ) /

  1. scarcely; barely: we hardly knew the family

  2. just; only just: he could hardly hold the cup

  1. often ironic almost or probably not or not at all: he will hardly incriminate himself

  2. with difficulty or effort

  3. 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