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presently

[prez-uhnt-lee]
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adverb
  1. in a little while; soon: They will be here presently.
  2. at the present time; now: He is presently out of the country.
  3. Archaic. immediately.
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Origin of presently

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at present1, -ly
Can be confusedcurrently immediately momentarily now presently soon (see synonym study at immediately) (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonyms

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Antonyms

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.”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

immediatelysoonshortlyanondirectlynownowadaystoday

Examples from the Web for presently

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Take it at once, and tell her I shall be up to see her presently.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • She withdrew, and presently came back with a note which she despatched to Mauburn.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Presently Percival found himself again at the bottom of the shaft.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Presently he was lifted and carried by strong arms up a creaking stairs.

  • Presently she raised her eyes and saw him leaning out of the window.

    Viviette

    William J. Locke


British Dictionary definitions for presently

presently

adverb
  1. in a short while; soon
  2. at the moment
  3. an archaic word for immediately
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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

Word Origin and History for presently

adv.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper