1. only just; almost not; barely: We had hardly reached the lake when it started raining. hardly any; hardly ever.
  2. not at all; scarcely: That report is hardly surprising.
  3. with little likelihood: He will hardly come now.
  4. forcefully or vigorously.
  5. with pain or difficulty.
  6. British. harshly or severely.
  7. hard.


  1. scarcely; barelywe hardly knew the family
  2. just; only justhe could hardly hold the cup
  3. often ironic almost or probably not or not at allhe will hardly incriminate himself
  4. with difficulty or effort
  5. rare harshly or cruelly

c.1200, “in a hard manner, with great exertion or effort,” from Old English heardlic “stern, severe, harsh; bold, warlike” (see hard + -ly (2)). Hence “assuredly, certainly” (early 14c.). Main modern sense of “barely, just” (1540s) reverses this, via the intermediate meaning “not easily, with trouble” (early 15c.). Formerly with superficial negative (not hardly).

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