[sel-duh m]


on only a few occasions; rarely; infrequently; not often: We seldom see our old neighbors anymore.


rare; infrequent.

Origin of seldom

before 900; Middle English; Old English seldum, variant of seldan; cognate with German selten, Gothic silda-
Related formssel·dom·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for seldom

Contemporary Examples of seldom

Historical Examples of seldom

  • He seldom speaks; but when he does, you are ever in his visions.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • He was a farmer's son, and seldom had any money in his possession.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Uncle Brunton noticed the change; for to those who saw him seldom the change was sudden.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • Wiseli's eyes shone with satisfaction as they seldom did nowadays.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • The term "gentleman" has seldom been used in this sense subsequently to the Revolution.

    A Book of Autographs

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

British Dictionary definitions for seldom



not often; rarely

Word Origin for seldom

Old English seldon; related to Old Norse sjāldan, Old High German seltan
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 seldom

late Old English seldum, alteration of seldan "seldom, rarely," from Proto-Germanic *selda- "strange, rare" (cf. Old Norse sjaldan, Old Frisian selden, Dutch zelden, Old High German seltan, German selten), perhaps ultimately from the base of self (q.v.).

Form shifted on analogy of adverbial dative plurals in -um (e.g. whilom "at one time," from while). The same development also created litlum from little, miclum from mickle. German seltsam "strange, odd," Dutch zeldzaam are related, but with the second element conformed to their versions of -some.

Seldom-times is from mid-15c. (Old English had seldhwanne "seldwhen"). Seldom-seen is from mid-15c. (Old English had seldsiene, "seld-seen").

Some compounds using the old form survived through Middle English, e.g. selcouth"rarely or little-known, unusual, strange, wonderful," from Old English selcuð, seld-cuð, from seldan + cuð (see couth). Old English seldan had comparative seldor, superlative seldost; in early Middle English, as seldan changed form and lost its connection with these, selde was formed as a positive. Shakespeare uses seld-shown.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper