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Not hardly

Not hardly is a hardy colloquialism that has been in English a long time and is likely to stay, but it might be considered out of place in serious writing. Because hardly means barely or almost not, adding the modifier not creates a double negative. Taken literally, not hardly would mean definitely or very. In practice, though, not hardly means the same as hardly.

Examples

Writers often use not hardly to create a colloquial tone. In many of the examples we found, not hardly is a standalone sentence—for example:


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Is this an ideal solution? Not hardly. [NJ.com]

Can I talk to them directly on the phone? Not hardly. [letter to Chicago Tribune]

Not that anyone admitted the importance of the moment. Not hardly. [Register-Guard]

In each of these cases, hardly would convey the same meaning as not hardly, but it wouldn’t have the same folksy tone.

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Comments

  1. Mook Merkin says:

    I always understood this to mean “not even hardly”, i.e. “not even barely”, i.e.i.e. “no chance”. But that’s just me.

    mm

  2. “Hardly” seems to have taken on its own meaning, possibly because of a lost in translation. If its Old English it may as well be Germanic, but I’m not sure of the etymology whatsoever. But, take it as a ‘lost in translation’ sort of thing, think about this. What if hardly were really “hardy.” Then “not hardly” would make sense as it was once used. Not as hard as wood is hardy. Just something to think about.

  3. Isn’t there a phrase, “hard by”, meaning “adjacent” or “right next to”? In which case, “not hardly” could be defined as “nowhere close”.

  4. Possibly it’s a combination of ‘hardly’ and ‘not half’, a similar expression which makes more sense. ‘Is it an ideal solution? Not half!’

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