Webster 1913 Edition






, }
With difficulty; hardly; scantly; barely; but just.
With a
well-lighted flame.
The eldest
five year was of age.
Slowly she sails, and
stems the tides.
He had
finished, when the laborer arrived who had been sent for my ransom.
W. Irving.
Frugally; penuriously.

Webster 1828 Edition



Hardly; scantly.
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Hardly; with difficulty.
Slowly he sails, and scarcely stems the tides.

Definition 2023





scarcely (comparative more scarcely, superlative most scarcely)

  1. (modal) Probably not.
    One could scarcely find any trout in the stream without the stocking program.
  2. (modal) Certainly not.
    One could scarcely expect the man to know how to fly a helicopter.
    • 1842, William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice,
      He did not enter upon the subject without being aware that government by its very nature counteracts the improvement of individual intellect; but, as the views he entertains in this particular are out of the common road, it is scarcely to be wondered at that he understood the proposition more completely as he proceeded, and saw more distinctly into the nature of the remedy.
    • 1869, R. D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone,
      But, of course, this weather had put a stop to every kind of movement; for even if men could have borne the cold, they could scarcely be brought to face the perils of the snow-drifts.
    • 1898, H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds,
      The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world.
    • 1914, Saki, Dusk in Beasts and Super-Beasts,
      His clothes could scarcely be called shabby, at least they passed muster in the half-light, but one’s imagination could not have pictured the wearer embarking on the purchase of a half-crown box of chocolates or laying out ninepence on a carnation buttonhole.
  3. (degree) Almost not at all; by a small margin.
    • Washington Irving
      He had scarcely finished, when the labourer arrived who had been sent for my ransom.
    • 1875 December 7, Ulysses S. Grant, Ulysses S. Grant's Seventh State of the Union Address,
      In 1776 manufactories scarcely existed even in name in all this vast territory.
    • 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet:
      Scarcely had she got fairly into it, however, before the beasts closed in behind her, and she found herself completely embedded in the moving stream of fierce-eyed long-homed bullocks.
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 2, in The Disappearance of Count Collini:
      Scarcely had Alice reached her twentieth birthday, than she gave her erstwhile fiancée [sic] his formal congé. […]”
    • 1922, Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
      That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy’s bed. At first he found it rather uncomfortable, for the Boy hugged him very tight, and sometimes he rolled over on him, and sometimes he pushed him so far under the pillow that the Rabbit could scarcely breathe.
    • 1963, Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes:
      But we shall take scarcely more than two years to reach it, while we should have needed almost as much time to arrive in the region of Proxima Centauris.
    • 1993, Baltasar Gracián, Joseph Jacobs (translator), The Art of Worldly Wisdom,
      Nature scarcely ever gives us the very best—for that we must have recourse to art.

Usage notes

It is grammatically a negative word. It therefore collocates with ever rather than never.

  • Compare We scarcely ever eat fish. with We almost never eat fish.




Most common English words before 1923: enemy · perfect · bright · #731: scarcely · Paris · expression · Duke