Definition of hardly in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhɑːdli/


1Scarcely (used to qualify a statement by saying that it is true to an insignificant degree): the little house in which he lived was hardly bigger than a hut a thing hardly bigger than a credit card we hardly know each other
More example sentences
  • A degree in theatre arts hardly qualifies me as a nutritionist or a psychologist.
  • If Judas were among the saved, these statements could hardly be true.
  • If true, it's hardly inspirational to the troops.
scarcely, barely, only just, not much, faintly, narrowly, slightly, rarely, little;
by a very small margin, by the narrowest of margins, by the skin of one's teeth, by a hair's breadth, by a nose;
almost not, not quite
informal by a whisker
1.1Only a very short time before: the party had hardly started when the police arrived
More example sentences
  • The reforms of the NHS may have tested his ability to carry the party with him but they have hardly begun.
  • I mean, a person can hardly sit down today without a movie or without music or something going on.
  • Southwell had hardly sat down when the price was being paid, with Jerry Flannery on the tail end of an irresistible maul.
1.2Only with great difficulty: she could hardly sit up I nodded, hardly able to breath
More example sentences
  • I could hardly sit down the whole of the next day.
  • We could hardly eat, never sit still, and chattered endlessly about the hopes and possibilities for Christmas Day.
  • I could hardly stand it, sitting around another hour or so with the adults.
only with difficulty, barely, scarcely, only with effort, only just, almost not
British informal at a push
1.3No or not (suggesting surprise at or disagreement with a statement): I hardly think so
More example sentences
  • Now being a Texas resident for the past five years might make me a citizen of the state, but it hardly qualifies me as a true Texan.
  • Nonetheless, despite the seemingly narrow focus, this outline is hardly insignificant.
  • Still, at 58 degrees, that was hardly bath water lapping onto the sand near SeaWalk Pavilion.
2 archaic Harshly: the rule worked hardly


Words like hardly, scarcely, and rarely should not be used with negative constructions. Thus, it is correct to say I can hardly wait but incorrect to say I can’t hardly wait. This is because adverbs like hardly are treated as if they were negatives, and it is a well-known grammatical rule of standard English that double negatives (i.e. in this case having hardly and not in the same clause) are not acceptable. Words like hardly behave as negatives in other respects as well, as for example in combining with words like any or at all, which normally only occur where a negative is present (thus, standard usage is I’ve got hardly any money but not I’ve got any money). See also double negative (usage).



hardly any

Almost no: they sold hardly any books
1.1Almost none: hardly any had previous convictions
More example sentences
  • In 1979, there were hardly any production companies and none of us were on the radar at that point.
  • There were people like that in my village too, as a child, but hardly any to speak of, and possibly none now.
  • At first this sounds truly minimal: slow-moving layers of overlapping sound with hardly any pulse.

hardly ever

Very rarely: we hardly ever see them
More example sentences
  • We can hold our liquor and hardly ever shoot each other unless it's important.
  • In fact, they hardly ever come to buy anything from my shop and even if they do I refuse to sell anything to them.
  • Children I know spend more time playing on computers and hardly ever read books.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hard¦ly

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