Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adv. Barely; just.
  • adv. To almost no degree; almost not: I could hardly hear the speaker.
  • adv. Probably or almost surely not: "Easily was a man made an infidel, but hardly might he be converted to another faith” ( T.E. Lawrence).
  • adv. With severity; harshly.
  • adv. With great difficulty; painfully.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adv. Firmly, vigorously, with strength or exertion.
  • adv. Harshly, severely.
  • adv. With difficulty.
  • adv. Barely, only just, almost not.
  • interj. Not really.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adv. In a hard or difficult manner; with difficulty.
  • adv. Unwillingly; grudgingly.
  • adv. Scarcely; barely; not quite; not wholly.
  • adv. Severely; harshly; roughly.
  • adv. Confidently; hardily.
  • adv. Certainly; surely; indeed.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Not softly or tenderly; roughly; severely; unfavorably; inimically.
  • By hard work; with difficulty.
  • Not quite or completely; only approximately; scarcely: as, it is hardly strong enough; that is hardly true.
  • Barely; narrowly; almost not at all: as, hardly any; hardly ever.
  • Not probably; with little likelihood: as, he will hardly come to-day.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adv. almost not
  • adv. only a very short time before

Etymologies

Middle English hardli, from Old English heardlīce, harshly, bravely, from heard, hard; see hard.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From hard +‎ ly. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The "extras" -- the word hardly does them justice -- include a Loach profile on TV's Southbank show from 1993, a new documentary about the making of the film and his landmark feature Cathy Come Home, a massively popular TV movie as worthy of attention on its own as anything Loach has done.

    Michael Giltz: DVDs: Jonathan Demme's "Wild" Ride

  • Late last night, an anonymous resident from Akira Hall had recognized Aya and rekicked to her feed, but by then the fact that she had a name hardly mattered.

    Scott Westerfeld: Uglies Quartet

  • He slept throughout the entire journey and woke only toward the end of the afternoon as we jolted down the narrow lane to Misenum, where Lucullus had his—well, I was going to call it a house, but the word hardly fits that veritable palace of pleasure, the Villa Cornelia, which he had bought and extended on the coast.

    CONSPIRATA

  • The title hardly sounded formidable, but Egypt ' s bureaucracy was legendary.

    No Tee Time for Zubaid

  • Here's the Joint Working Group on what it refers to as "spoof," though the term hardly does justice to its gravity: States or terrorist organizations, for reasons that might range from protecting secrets to preventing attribution, may attempt to spoof any later investigation by mixing material from different sources.

    Russ Wellen: Can Nuclear Terrorists Be Deterred?

  • Agreed, even if our college jazz department is so informal that the title hardly ever gets used.

    How to make patients think of the nurse as a doctor?

  • But the title hardly exaggerates the part which the English minister was enabled to play during the next few years by the rivalry of Charles and Francis, and by the apparently even balance of their powers.

    Henry VIII.

  • This hardly is an example to be emulated by any sane Israeli government.

    Matthew Yglesias » Ehud Barak: Peace or Apartheid

  • Yet “slave” is a term hardly applicable to such “chattels,” who, as a rule, are free as their lords.

    Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo

  • He relates, with apparent belief, the existence of several extraordinary quadrupeds in the vast Hercynian forest, such as the unicorn of heraldry, which here first appears; the elk, which has no joints to its legs, and cannot lie down, whose bulk he depreciates as much as he exaggerates that of the urus or wild bull, which he describes as hardly inferior to the elephant in size.

    The History of Roman Literature From the earliest period to the death of Marcus Aurelius

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