Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.
Related to scarcely: scarily


1. By a small margin; barely: We scarcely made it in time.
2. Almost not; hardly: We scarcely ever used the reserve generator.
3. Certainly not: They could scarcely complain after such good treatment.
Usage Note: Scarcely has the force of a negative and is therefore regarded as incorrectly used with another negative, as in I couldn't scarcely believe it. · A clause following scarcely is properly introduced by when or before; the use of than is usually changed by copyeditors: The meeting had scarcely begun when (or before but not than) it was interrupted. See Usage Notes at double negative, hardly.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. hardly at all; only just
2. often ironic probably not or definitely not: that is scarcely justification for your actions.
Usage: Since scarcely, hardly, and barely already have negative force, it is redundant to use another negative in the same clause: there was scarcely any (not scarcely no) bread left; he had hardly had (not he hadn't hardly had) time to think
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈskɛərs li)

1. barely; not quite: We can scarcely see.
2. definitely not: This is scarcely the time to raise such questions.
3. probably not: You could scarcely have chosen better.
syn: See hardly.
usage: See hardly.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.



Both scarce and scarcely are fairly formal words. They have completely different meanings.

1. 'scarce'

Scarce is an adjective. If something is scarce, very little of it is available.

Good quality land is scarce.
The desert is a place where water is scarce.
2. 'rare'

Don't use 'scarce' to say that something is not common, and is therefore interesting. Use rare.

This flower is so rare that few botanists have ever seen it.
Deepak's hobby is collecting rare books.
3. 'scarcely'

Scarcely is an adverb that means the same as 'hardly'. If something is scarcely true, it is almost not true. If something scarcely exists, it almost does not exist.

The smell was so bad I could scarcely bear it.
The woman was scarcely able to walk.

Be Careful!
Don't use 'not' with scarcely. Don't say, for example, 'I do not scarcely have enough money to live'. Say 'I scarcely have enough money to live'.

If you use an auxiliary verb or modal with scarcely, put the auxiliary verb or modal first. Say, for example, 'I could scarcely stand'. Don't say 'I scarcely could stand'.

I can scarcely remember what we ate.
He could scarcely be blamed for his reaction.

Scarcely is sometimes used to emphasize that one thing happened immediately after another.

We had scarcely arrived when it was time to leave again.

Be Careful!
Use when, not 'than', in sentences like these. Don't say, for example, 'We had scarcely arrived than it was time to leave again'.

In literary writing, scarcely is sometimes put at the beginning of a sentence, followed by had or the verb be and the subject.

Scarcely had she put down the receiver when the phone rang again.
Scarcely were the words spoken when he began to regret them.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adv.1.scarcely - only a very short time beforescarcely - only a very short time before; "they could barely hear the speaker"; "we hardly knew them"; "just missed being hit"; "had scarcely rung the bell when the door flew open"; "would have scarce arrived before she would have found some excuse to leave"- W.B.Yeats
2.scarcely - almost not; "he hardly ever goes fishing"; "he was hardly more than sixteen years old"; "they scarcely ever used the emergency generator"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


1. hardly, barely, only just, scarce (archaic), almost not He could scarcely breathe.
2. (Often used ironically) by no means, hardly, not at all, definitely not, under no circumstances, on no account It can scarcely be coincidence.
3. rarely, seldom, not often, infrequently, occasionally, once in a blue moon (informal), hardly ever I scarcely ever re-read my published writings.
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


By a very little; almost not:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
باِلْكَادبالكاد، بِصُعوبَهبصورَةٍ غَيْر مَعْقولَه
hädin tuskin
daha ...-mıştı kidenemezherhalde ... değilnadiren
vỏn vẹn


[ˈskɛəslɪ] ADV (= barely) → apenas
scarcely anybodycasi nadie
I can scarcely believe itapenas puedo creerlocasi no puedo creerlo
scarcely evercasi nunca
I scarcely know what to sayno sé qué puedo decir
he was scarcely more than a boyera apenas un niño
we could scarcely refuse¿cómo podíamos negarnos?difícilmente podíamos negarnos
it is scarcely surprising thatno es ni mucho menos sorprendente que ...
he's scarcely what you'd call a cordon bleu chef (iro) → no es precisamente un maestro de la cocina
the car had scarcely drawn to a halt whenapenas se había parado el coche cuando ...
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈskɛərsli] adv
(= barely, only just) → à peine
I scarcely knew him → Je le connaissais à peine.
I can scarcely believe it → J'arrive à peine à le croire.
scarcely anybody → pratiquement personne
(= hardly) → guère
He was scarcely more than a child → Il n'était guère plus qu'un enfant.
He could scarcely have had more difficult opponents → Il n'aurait guère pu trouver des adversaires plus difficiles.
The defender's first two goals since arriving from Caen could scarcely have been better timed → Les deux premiers buts que le défenseur a inscrits depuis son arrivée de Caen n'auraient guère pu tomber mieux.
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


kaum; scarcely anybodykaum einer or jemand; scarcely anythingfast or beinahe nichts; scarcely everkaum jemals, fast or beinahe nie; with scarcely a soundfast lautlos; I scarcely know what to sayich weiß nicht recht, was ich sagen soll; scarcely had the car drawn to a halt when …das Auto war kaum zum Stehen gekommen, als …
(= not really)wohl kaum; you can scarcely expect him to believe thatSie erwarten doch wohl nicht or kaum, dass er das glaubt; he’s scarcely the most polite of mener ist nicht gerade or er ist wohl kaum der Höflichste
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈskɛəslɪ] adv (barely) → appena
scarcely anybody → quasi nessuno
scarcely ever → quasi mai
I scarcely know what to say → non so proprio che dire
I can scarcely believe it → faccio fatica a crederci
I've scarcely seen him → l'ho visto raramente
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(skeəs) adjective
not many or enough in number. Paintings by this artist are very scarce; Food is scarce because of the drought.
ˈscarcely adverb
1. only just; not quite. Speak louder please – I can scarcely hear you; scarcely enough money to live on.
2. used to suggest that something is unreasonable. You can scarcely expect me to work when I'm ill.
ˈscarcity noun
(a) lack or shortage. a scarcity of work/jobs; times of scarcity.
make oneself scarce
to run away or stay away, especially in order to avoid trouble. As soon as the police arrived, he made himself scarce.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


باِلْكَاد stěží knap kaum μετά βίας apenas hädin tuskin rarement jedva scarsamente ほとんど・・・ない 겨우 nauwelijks knapt ledwo mal едва knappast อย่างไม่พอเพียง nadiren vỏn vẹn 几乎不
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009
References in classic literature ?
In my own case there followed my acquaintance with these authors certain Boeotian years, when if I did not go backward I scarcely went forward in the paths I had set out upon.
Music seems scarcely to attract him, and though he admires Elinor's drawings very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their worth.
She wished, she feared that the master of the house might be amongst them; and whether she wished or feared it most, she could scarcely determine.
Though I expected no answer, scarcely three minutes had elapsed before the lacquey returned with "the compliments of a certain person."
What occurred that night between myself and those officers I scarcely know, I scarcely remember.
There are many things connected with our journey into Kukuanaland that I should have liked to dwell upon at length, which, as it is, have been scarcely alluded to.
"I can scarcely call myself that," he replied, "but I do speak several other languages.
The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, re- volves 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.
I arrived last night about five, had scarcely swallowed my dinner when Mainwaring made his appearance.
He sprang down from the platform and grasped her roughly by the arm, but scarcely had he touched her than I leaped between them.
made but a faint attempt to parry this unexpected blow; the monarchy he had scarcely reconstructed tottered on its precarious foundation, and at a sign from the emperor the incongruous structure of ancient prejudices and new ideas fell to the ground.
A professor does not meet his pupil to see her dressed in satin and muslin, with hair perfumed and curled, neck scarcely shaded by aerial lace, round white arms circled with bracelets, feet dressed for the gliding dance.