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From Middle English scarcely, scarsly, scarsely, scarsliche, scarseliche, equivalent to scarce +‎ -ly.



scarcely (comparative more scarcely, superlative most scarcely)

  1. (modal) Probably not.
    One could scarcely find any trout in the stream without the stocking program.
    • 1951 October, William B. Stocks, “A Few Miles from Huddersfield”, in Railway Magazine, page 701:
      The staff here are frequently in the news, thanks to their successful efforts to make an attractive station where travellers would scarcely expect to find one.
  2. (modal) Certainly not.
    One could scarcely expect the man to know how to fly a helicopter.
    • 1842, William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice:
      He did not enter upon the subject without being aware that government by its very nature counteracts the improvement of individual intellect; but, as the views he entertains in this particular are out of the common road, it is scarcely to be wondered at that he understood the proposition more completely as he proceeded, and saw more distinctly into the nature of the remedy.
    • 1869, R. D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone:
      But, of course, this weather had put a stop to every kind of movement; for even if men could have borne the cold, they could scarcely be brought to face the perils of the snow-drifts.
    • 1898, H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds:
      The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world.
    • 1914, Saki, “Dusk”, in Beasts and Super-Beasts:
      His clothes could scarcely be called shabby, at least they passed muster in the half-light, but one’s imagination could not have pictured the wearer embarking on the purchase of a half-crown box of chocolates or laying out ninepence on a carnation buttonhole.
  3. (degree) Hardly: only just; by a small margin.

Usage notes[edit]

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

  • Compare We scarcely ever eat fish. with We almost never eat fish.
  • The sentence We scarcely never eat fish is ungrammatical.



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See also[edit]