Origin of presently
SynonymsSee more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
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
Examples from the Web for presently
One thing led to another, and they were presently on a couch in his library.The Stacks: H.L. Mencken on the 1904 Baltimore Fire
October 4, 2014
The use of the F-22 over Syria presently is easily feasible and extremely logical.First U.S. Stealth Jet Attack on Syria Cost More Than Indian Mission to Mars
September 24, 2014
Presently Louis rose with a nod to us and offered his arm to Constance, and they strolled away along the river wall.
The cat ceased snarling and presently began a loud purring which seemed to increase in timbre as he stroked her.
The father had correctly heard that the district attorney is presently planning to seek the death penalty.A Satanic Killer of 100 People? More Like One, Cops Think
February 20, 2014
Take it at once, and tell her I shall be up to see her presently.
She withdrew, and presently came back with a note which she despatched to Mauburn.
Presently Percival found himself again at the bottom of the shaft.
Presently he was lifted and carried by strong arms up a creaking stairs.Way of the Lawless
Presently she raised her eyes and saw him leaning out of the window.Viviette
William J. Locke
- 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
Word Origin and History for presently
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper