From Middle English hardely, hardliche, from Old English heardlīċe (boldly; hardily; without ease; in a way that causes pain; not easily; only by degrees), equivalent to hard +‎ -ly. Compare Dutch hardelijk, German härtlich.





hardly (comparative hardlier or more hardly, superlative hardliest or most hardly)

  1. (degree) Barely, only just, almost not.
    They hardly ever watch television.
    It's hardly possible he could lose the election.
  2. Certainly not; not at all.
    I hardly think they'll come in this bad weather!
    • 2011 November 3, David Ornstein, “Macc Tel-Aviv 1-2 Stoke”, in BBC Sport:
      With this the second of three games in seven days for Stoke, it was hardly surprising to see nine changes from the side that started against Newcastle in the Premier League on Monday.
    • 2013 July 6, “The rise of smart beta”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8843, page 68:
      Investors face a quandary. Cash offers a return of virtually zero in many developed countries; government-bond yields may have risen in recent weeks but they are still unattractive. Equities have suffered two big bear markets since 2000 and are wobbling again. It is hardly surprising that pension funds, insurers and endowments are searching for new sources of return.
  3. (now rare) With difficulty.
    • , Folio Society, 2006, vol.1, p.234:
      And what gentle flame soever doth warme the heart of young virgins, yet are they hardly drawne to leave and forgoe their mothers, to betake them to their husbands [].
    • 1977, John Le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy, Folio Society, published 2010, page 40:
      While in Chelsea, Anne Smiley pined, taking very hardly to her unaccustomed role of wife abandoned.
  4. (manner, archaic) Harshly, severely; in a hard manner.
    • 1849 May – 1850 November, Charles Dickens, The Personal History of David Copperfield, London: Bradbury & Evans, [], published 1850, →OCLC:
      I was a fool when I married him; and I am so far an incurable fool on that subject, that, for the sake of what I once believed him to be, I wouldn’t have even this shadow of my idle fancy hardly dealt with.
    • 1866 February, [O.G. Trevelyan], “The Dawk Bungalow”, in Frazer's Magazine, London, page 219:
      "Mr. Cholmondeley, the young men out here are much too hardly worked to allow them time for paying impertinent compliments."
  5. (manner, obsolete) Firmly, vigorously, with strength or exertion.

Usage notes

  • In the modern sense "barely", it occurs before the verb, and is grammatically a negative word. It therefore collocates with ever rather than never.
    • Compare example sentence with I almost never watch television
    • Because of the anomalous sense of this word, expressions such as "hardly working" have an opposite meaning to what the etymology ("hard" + "-ly") would suggest. "Working hard" suggests that considerable work is being done, whereas "hardly working" suggests that very little work is being done.



Derived terms



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.




  1. Not really.
    I think the Beatles are a really overrated band. ― Hardly!


  • hardly”, in OneLook Dictionary Search.