on rare occasions; infrequently; seldom: I'm rarely late for appointments.
exceptionally; in an unusual degree.
unusually or remarkably well; excellent.

Origin of rarely

First recorded in 1515–25; rare1 + -ly
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rarely

Contemporary Examples of rarely

Historical Examples of rarely

  • In this affair real meanings are rarely conveyed except by silences.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • They were kind-hearted and rarely did anything that was cruel.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • Rarely has there been exhibited so complete a combination of qualities in statesmanship.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • This was an unusual event, as he rarely interfered with them during play hours.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • Found all too rarely, he is never shelved, for the reason that life cannot do without him.

British Dictionary definitions for rarely



hardly ever; seldomI'm rarely in town these days
to an unusual degree; exceptionally
dialect uncommonly well; excellentlyhe did rarely at market yesterday


Since rarely means hardly ever, one should not say something rarely ever happens
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 rarely

1550s, from rare (adj.1) + -ly (2). "Seldom, not often;" also "finely, excellently."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper