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From late Middle English seldom, alteration of earlier selden, from Old English seldan (seldom), from Proto-Germanic *seldana. Cognate with Saterland Frisian säilden (seldom), West Frisian selden, komselden (rare, seldom), Dutch zelden, German selten, Danish sjælden, Norwegian sjelden, Swedish sällan, Faroese sjáldan, Icelandic sjaldan.



seldom (comparative more seldom or seldomer, superlative most seldom or seldomest)

  1. Infrequently, rarely.
    They seldom come here now.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 8, in The Celebrity:
      I corralled the judge, and we started off across the fields, in no very mild state of fear of that gentleman's wife, whose vigilance was seldom relaxed.
    • 2013 April 9, Andrei Lankov, “Stay Cool. Call North Korea’s Bluff.”, in New York Times[1]:
      People who talk about an imminent possibility of war seldom pose this question: What would North Korea’s leadership get from unleashing a war that they are likely to lose in weeks, if not days?
    • 2013 June 1, “End of the peer show”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8838, page 71:
      Finance is seldom romantic. But the idea of peer-to-peer lending comes close. This is an industry that brings together individual savers and lenders on online platforms. Those that want to borrow are matched with those that want to lend.

Usage notesEdit

  • It is grammatically a negative word. It therefore collocates with ever rather than never. Compare he seldom ever plays tennis with he almost never plays tennis.



Derived termsEdit



seldom (comparative more seldom or seldomer, superlative most seldom or seldomest)

  1. (archaic) rare; infrequent
    A suppressed and seldom anger. — Jeremy Taylor.

Derived termsEdit