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From Middle English often, alteration (with final -n added due to analogy with Middle English selden (seldom)) of Middle English ofte, oft, from Old English oft (often), from Proto-Germanic *ufta, *uftō (often). Cognate with Scots oftin (often), North Frisian oftem (often), Saterland Frisian oafte (often), German oft (often), Pennsylvania German oft (often), Danish ofte (often), Norwegian Bokmål ofte (often), Norwegian Nynorsk ofte (often), Swedish ofta (often), and Icelandic oft (often).


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈɒf(t)ən/, (East Anglia, Historical RP) /ˈɔːf(t)ən/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈɔf(t)ən/
  • (Canada) IPA(key): /ˈɒf(t)ən/
  • (file)
  • Historically, the /t/ was pronounced but the current pronunciation was standardized after it stopped being pronounced (as in, e.g., listen, soften, glisten). Therefore, the modern forms where the /t/ is pronounced (compare oft) are spelling-influenced pronunciations. The traditional /t/-less form is considered by many to be “more correct” for that reason.
  • Homophone: orphan (non-rhotic accents with the lot–cloth split)
  • Rhymes: -ɒfən, -ɒftən
  • Hyphenation: oft‧en


often (comparative more often or oftener, superlative most often or oftenest)

  1. Frequently; many times.
    Synonyms: a lot, (archaic except US) oftentimes, typically; see also Thesaurus:often
    Antonyms: infrequently, occasionally, rarely, seldom, (literary except India) unoften; see also Thesaurus:rarely
    I often walk to work when the weather is nice.
    I’ve been going to the movies more often since a new theatre opened near me.
    • 1791, John Walker, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary [] [1], London: Sold by G. G. J. and J. Robinſon, Paternoſter Row; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, →OCLC, page 557:
      ☞ This word [wrap] is often pronounced wrop, rhyming with top, even by ſpeakers much above the vulgar.
    • 1850, T. S. Arthur, “A Rise in the Butter Market”, in Sketches of Life and Character[2], Philadelphia: J. W. Bradley, →OCLC, page 59:
      How often is the comfort of a whole family abridged by some trifling circumstance, that ought not to have made a visible impression!
    • 1912, P. Chalmers Mitchell, “Larvæ and Metamorphoses”, in The Childhood of Animals[3], New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, →OCLC, page 17:
      Although frogs are able to swim well and often are found in water, they are really land animals.
    • 2013 June 8, “Obama goes troll-hunting”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8839, page 55:
      According to this saga of intellectual-property misanthropy, these creatures [patent trolls] roam the business world, buying up patents and then using them to demand extravagant payouts from companies they accuse of infringing them. Often, their victims pay up rather than face the costs of a legal battle.

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often (comparative more often, superlative most often)

  1. (archaic) Frequent.
    • c. 1598–1600 (date written), William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene i]:
      [] it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and, indeed, the sundry contemplation of my travels; in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness.
    • 1618, Anthony Munday (translator), The Third Booke of Amadis de Gaule by Nicolas de Herberay des Essarts (1542), London, Chapter 2, p. 18,[4]
      Then came the Ladies to visite him, and the Queene gaue him most gracious welcome, desiring him to be of good cheere: For heere is my Daughter (quoth she) right skilfull in the Art of Chirurgerie, that meanes to bee your often visitant.
    • 1656, John Bunyan, chapter 48, in Solomon’s Temple Spiritualiz’d[5], London: George Larkin, published 1688, page 113:
      The Shew-bread by an often remove, and renewing, was continually to stand before the Lord in his House []

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Middle English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


From ofte.




  1. repeatedly, again and again, many times, frequently
  2. Under many circumstances, in many instances


  • English: often
  • Scots: aften, af'en, affen, oaffen, oaften