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From hopeful +‎ -ly. The use as a sentence adverb first gained currency in the United States and has been explained as a possible calque of German hoffentlich.[1]





hopefully (comparative more hopefully, superlative most hopefully)

  1. In a hopeful manner. [from 17th c.]
    • 1993, Alasdair Gray, “You”, in Ten Tales Tall and True:
      ‘In fifteen minutes I will be at the carpark, sitting hopefully inside a puce Reliant Scimitar.’
  2. (not comparable) It is hoped that; I hope; we hope. [from 18th c.]
    Hopefully, my father will arrive in time for the show.
    She was buried with her mom and hopefully they are together now.

Usage notes


The second definition (“I hope that”, used as a sentence adverb) has been criticized by some usage writers although it is by far the most commonly used sense of the word. Many adverbs are used as sentence modifiers with somewhat less frequent objection such as interestingly, frankly, clearly, luckily, and unfortunately. Unlike for many such shifts in meaning that occur in English, the portion of the American Heritage Dictionary's Usage Panel that condones the second sense of the word has decreased from 1969 to 2000, offering the explanation that this particular usage has become a shibboleth.[2][3] Merriam-Webster, on the other hand, calls the usage "entirely standard", and notes that it has been used since the early 18th century, having been commonly used in American English since the 1930s, and gained significant popularity in the 1960s.[4]

The dispute over the use of sentence adverbs is born largely of the fact that in using an existing adverb to apply to not only one verb but a whole sentence, the meaning of the word is altered, which, in certain situations, can lead to ambiguity. For example, Hopefully, he will save money for the deposit on a new house can mean either that it is hoped that he will save the money (in which hopefully is a sentence adverb modifying the entire sentence) or that he is saving money in a hopeful manner (in which hopefully modifies will save). Sentence adverbs have played a part in English since the 17th century but have been limited largely to use wherein they retain their original definition (e.g. probably). It was not until the 20th century that they began to be used in other situations.

“[T]here is no precise substitute,” says the American Heritage Dictionary. “Someone who says Hopefully, the treaty will be ratified makes a hopeful prediction about the fate of the treaty, whereas someone who says I hope (or We hope or It is hoped) the treaty will be ratified expresses a bald statement about what is desired. Only the latter could be continued with a clause such as but it isn’t likely.”[2] Hopefully is also less personal than I hope or we hope. It is hoped that and if hopes are realized would be impersonal and have been suggested as alternatives to hopefully,[5] but using hopefully is more concise.

Compare to the usage of regretfully, which does have the substitute regrettably. In fact, hopeably has been proposed as an alternative, but it has not caught on.

Derived terms





  1. ^ Locher, Miriam A.; Strässler, Jürg. 2008. Standards and norms in the English language. New York: De Gruyer. Page 25.
  2. 2.0 2.1 “hopefully”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2000, →ISBN.
  3. ^ See also M. Stanley Whitley, "Hopefully: A Shibboleth in the English Adverb System", American Speech, (58) 2 (Summer 1983), pp. 126–49 [1]
  4. ^ "Hopefully" in Merriam-Webster
  5. ^ Theodore Menline Bernstein. The Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to English Usage. Page 216. 1995.