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From Middle English hardely, hardliche, from Old English heardlīċe (boldly; hardily; without ease; in a way that causes pain; not easily; only by degrees), equivalent to hard +‎ -ly. Compare Dutch hardelijk, German härtlich.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈhɑːdli/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈhɑɹdli/
  • (file)


hardly (comparative hardlier or more hardly, superlative hardliest or most hardly)

  1. (manner, obsolete) Firmly, vigorously, with strength or exertion.
  2. (manner, archaic) Harshly, severely; in a hard manner.
    • 1849 May – 1850 November, Charles Dickens, The Personal History of David Copperfield, London: Bradbury & Evans, [], published 1850, OCLC 558196156:
      I was a fool when I married him; and I am so far an incurable fool on that subject, that, for the sake of what I once believed him to be, I wouldn’t have even this shadow of my idle fancy hardly dealt with.
    • 1866 February 1, [O.G. Trevelyan], “The Dawk Bungalow”, in Frazer's Magazine, page 219:
      "Mr. Cholmondeley, the young men out here are much too hardly worked to allow them time for paying impertinent compliments."
  3. (now rare) With difficulty.
  4. (degree) Barely, only just, almost not.
    • 1887, H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure[1]:
      How lonely they looked as they lay there, and how ill assorted! That little heap had been for two thousand years the wisest, loveliest, proudest creature - I can hardly call her woman - in the whole universe.
    • 2011 November 3, David Ornstein, “Macc Tel-Aviv 1-2 Stoke”, in BBC Sport:
      With this the second of three games in seven days for Stoke, it was hardly surprising to see nine changes from the side that started against Newcastle in the Premier League on Monday.
    • 2013 July 6, “The rise of smart beta”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8843, page 68:
      Investors face a quandary. Cash offers a return of virtually zero in many developed countries; government-bond yields may have risen in recent weeks but they are still unattractive. Equities have suffered two big bear markets since 2000 and are wobbling again. It is hardly surprising that pension funds, insurers and endowments are searching for new sources of return.
    they hardly ever watch television; I hardly think they'll come in this bad weather; it's hardly possible he could lose the election.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In the modern sense "barely", it is grammatically a negative word. It therefore collocates with ever rather than never.
    • Compare example sentence with I almost never watch television
    • Because of the anomalous sense of this word, expressions such as "hardly working" have an opposite meaning to what the etymology ("hard" + "-ly") would suggest. "Working hard" suggests that considerable work is being done, whereas "hardly working" suggests that very little work is being done.



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.



  1. Not really.
    I think the Beatles are a really overrated band. ― Hardly!