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From Middle English barely, baarly, barly, bareliche, equivalent to bare +‎ -ly. Compare Danish bare (only, just), Norwegian bare (only, just).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈbɛə(ɹ).li/
    • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈbɛɹ.li/
  • Rhymes: -ɛə(ɹ)li
  • Hyphenation: bare‧ly


barely (not comparable)

  1. (degree) By a small margin.
    • 1748, [David Hume], Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, London: [] A[ndrew] Millar, [], →OCLC:
      It becomes, therefore, no inconsiderable part of science barely to know the different operations of mind,
    • 1925, Walter Anthony and Tom Reed (titles), Rupert Julian (director), The Phantom of the Opera, silent movie
      ‘It is barely possible you may hear of a ghost, a Phantom of the Opera!’
    • 1961 November, H. G. Ellison and P. G. Barlow, “Journey through France: Part One”, in Trains Illustrated, page 670:
      As our train to Paris dashed through the labyrynthine flyovers at Porchefontaine, barely a mile from Versailles, the 75 m.p.h. limit was already almost attained.
  2. (degree) Almost not at all.
    The plane is so far away now I can barely see it.
    Yes, it is barely visible.
    • 2011 October 23, Phil McNulty, “Man Utd 1 - 6 Man City”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      In contrast to what was to come, City were barely allowed any time to settle on the ball in the opening exchanges, with Ashley Young prominent and drawing heavy fouls from Micah Richards and James Milner.
  3. (archaic) merely.
    • 1661, Robert Boyle, The Sceptical Chymist, page 29:
      Now that fire do's not alwayes barely separate the Elementary parts, but sometimes at least alter also the Ingredients of Bodies []

Usage notes[edit]

It is grammatically a negative word. It therefore collocates with ever rather than never.

  • Compare
You can barely ever find used items on eBay.
You can almost never find used items on eBay.