Google Ngrams shows that it's being used. However, some people disagree on the matter.

Is "halfly" a word? If not, what's an alternative?

Example sentence:

I lied to her. Well, only halfly. I was indeed sick.

  • How do you intend to use "halfly"? As the answer points out, half can be used as an adverb. Notice also that the actual result for "halfly" is about 227 on google books. That's not very impressive. It suggests that people don't use this word.
    – Em.
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 4:24
  • @Max I added an example sentence. Half doesn't sound very well?
    – wyc
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 4:26
  • 2
    In my opinion, it sounds somewhat like the speaker is making a joke, or trying (hard) to be funny. "Well, only half." sounds ok to me, but I would expect "Well, only half lied." Again, this is merely an opinion.
    – Em.
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 4:30
  • It seems like it was in use in the past, well in past. And then it became obsolete. However, you can find some rare usage in current writing/speaking. But that is very rare. Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 4:38
  • 1
    @alexchenco: Per the OED, halfly went out of vogue 300+ years ago, waaaaaay before Google's Ngram corpus starts.
    – Martha
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 6:31

5 Answers 5


OED tells us that it is an adverb with the meaning of "half", but that it is obsolete:

Obs. = half adv.

c1480 (▸a1400) St. Ninian 1418 in W. M. Metcalfe Legends Saints Sc. Dial. (1896) II. 344 Til hyme, þat halfly-slepand lay.
1565 J. Hall Hist. Expost. in tr. Lanfranc Most Excellent Woorke Chirurg. sig. Dddv, Thine arte is halflye wunne.
1622 M. Drayton 2nd Pt. Poly-olbion xxiv. 83 So holy that him there, they halfely deifide.
1674 N. Fairfax Treat. Bulk & Selvedge 167 This is what it is halfly.

The most recent citation is from 1674, but it has happened before that words thought to be obsolete are revived or evolve anew from familiar forms. If singly and on(e)ly are adverbs, it is no stretch to grant halfly the same label.


Technically speaking, halfly is a word.

It is made up of letters, it looks English, its meaning is easily recognizable, and it even has some history (see @P. E. Dant's answer)

If the OP is writing a story, I see no reason why he cannot use the word halfly in his narration, it's called artistic licence; English poets, scholars, and hack writers have been manipulating and twisting English words ever since the Dark Ages.

Authors such as W. Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien had the confidence and the competence to "invent" words whenever the occasion arose. Indeed, Caroll coined the expression portmanteau word, which has long been recorded as a "proper" word. George Orwell, in his novel 1984, coined several expressions that have entered the English lexicon: doublethink, and newspeak are but two.

The OP asked whether "halfly" was a word.

I lied to her. Well, only halfly. I was indeed sick.

If halfly is italicized, readers will accept, and interpret it as being artistic license. It also sounds like something a schoolboy would say to justify a lie.

All in all, I think halfly is effective, it achieves what it sets out to do. An alternative might be white lie, but it doesn't quite convey the same impish charm, or meaning.

white lie
A harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone's feelings.
‘when I was young, I told little white lies’

As I was writing, it suddenly occurred to me that the compound half-lie is a perfect fit. (It has already been suggested by @Max)

something that a person says or writes that they know to be partly untrue
I tried to convince myself that to change a tense was to tell no more than a half-lie.

Transforming the original sentence into

I lied to her. Well, only half-lied. I was indeed sick

Thanks to @martha, in the comments below, who has suggested that the words half, half way, and partly could work equally well.

  • 3
    In the OP's example sentences, halfly could be effectively replaced by half, half way, or partly.
    – Martha
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 6:33


has the meaning "only half as much" or "not fully", just as


means full.

I halfly said yes to their invitation.
I half heartedly accepted their invitation

  • In your example, half-heartedly, doesn't mean "not fully", it's closer to reluctantly, and lacking in enthusiasm. The speaker prefers not to accept the invitation but probably feels obliged.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 7:10
  • 1
    The question is asking about halfly, not halfy. That makes this NAA. Also where are your references and evidence to back up your answer??? Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 11:04
  • "Halfy" is not in en.oxforddictionaries.com/…. If "halfy" a typo for "halfly" here?
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 11:25

The word you want to find is:


  • On this site, we appreciate answers that explain more thoroughly than that and also provide references.
    – fev
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 13:53

There is a word "half-done". You also can say "partially done".

In cases like that, if you say "halfly done", it would provoke a reaction like:

I understand what you have said, but why have not you said it a proper way?

It is a word. But use it wisely. If you need this sort of reaction then go for it.

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