Meaning of “hardly” in the English Dictionary

"hardly" in British English

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uk /ˈhɑː us /ˈhɑː

hardly adverb (ONLY JUST)

B1 only just; almost not:

I could hardly hear her at the back.
The party had hardly started when she left.
He hardly ate anything/He ate hardly anything.
We hardly ever (= almost never) go to concerts.
Hardly had a moment passed before the door creaked open.

More examples

  • It's so airless in here - I can hardly breathe.
  • Hardly anyone turned up for the party.
  • The instructions are printed so small I can hardly read them.
  • "Where's Mikey?" "How should I know? He's hardly ever in the office these days."
  • I hardly watch any television, apart from news and current affairs.

hardly adverb (CERTAINLY NOT)

B2 certainly not:

You can hardly expect a pay rise when you've only been working for the company for two weeks!
Well don't be angry with me - it's hardly my fault that it's raining!

More examples

  • It's a policy that was hardly calculated to win votes.
  • Her worldly success can hardly be denied.
  • I had hoped for a little more from the world's greatest tenor, whose performance was workmanlike but hardly inspired.
  • He had a few tufts of hair on his chin, but you could hardly call it a beard.
  • It's hardly not surprising (that) you're putting on weight, considering how much you're eating.

(Definition of “hardly” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"hardly" in American English

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hardlyadverb [ not gradable ]

us /ˈhɑrd·li/

hardly adverb [ not gradable ] (ONLY JUST)

only just or almost not:

Hardly a day passes that I don’t think about it.
You’ve hardly eaten anything.
Something is wrong with the phone – I can hardly hear you.
I can hardly wait for your visit.
We hardly ever see them anymore.

hardly adverb [ not gradable ] (CERTAINLY NOT)

certainly not:

It’s hardly surprising that he was angry.

(Definition of “hardly” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)