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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English presently; equivalent to present +‎ -ly.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɹɛzəntli/
  • (file)


presently (comparative more presently, superlative most presently)

  1. (now British, rare) Immediately, at once; quickly. [from 14thc.]
  2. Before long; soon. [from 15thc.]
    Presently all was quiet again.
    • 1646, Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, I.3:
      It [] is the greatest example of lenity in our Saviour, when he desired of God forgiveness unto those, who having one day brought him into the City in triumph, did presently after, act all dishonour upon him, and nothing could be heard but, Crucifige, in their Courts.
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter I, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, →OCLC:
      But they had already discovered that he could be bullied, and they had it their own way; and presently Selwyn lay prone upon the nursery floor, impersonating a ladrone while pleasant shivers chased themselves over Drina, whom he was stalking.
    • 1921, Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Sonnet IV”, in A Few Figs from Thistles:
      I shall forget you presently, my dear, / So make the most of this, your little day, / Your little month, your little half a year, / Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
    • 1940, Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely, Penguin, published 2010, page 55:
      ‘I shall presently be getting a call to tell me of that.’
  3. (rarely proscribed) At present; now; currently. [from 15thc.]
  4. (obsolete) With actual presence; in actuality. [~1600]
    • March 27 1545, Stephen Gardiner, letter to Thomas Smith and MAtthew PArker
      if they perceyve not presently, it shal be wel doon to bringe them to conformite

Usage notes[edit]

  • Some older usage guides, especially for UK English, object to the sense meaning "now", though most major modern dictionaries do not. In medieval and Elizabethan times "presently" meant "now" (but in the sense of "immediately" rather than "currently"). RH dates the sense of "now" back to the 15th century—noting it is "in standard use in all varieties of speech and writing in both Great Britain and the United States"—and dates the appearance of the sense of "soon" to the 16th century. Presently meaning 'now' is most often used with the present tense (The professor is presently on sabbatical leave) and presently meaning 'soon' often with the future tense (The supervisor will be back presently). M-W mentions the same vintage for the sense of "now", and that "it is not clear why it is objectionable." AHD4 states that despite its use "nowadays in literate speech and writing" that there is still " lingering prejudice against this use". In the late 1980s, only 50% of the dictionary's Usage Panel approved of the sentence General Walters is … presently the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. COD11 lists both usages without comment; CHAMBERS merely flags the sense of "now" as "N Amer, especially US".