partially, partly
1. The meanings of these two words overlap in ways that make it difficult to decide between them in any principled way, although certain patterns in their use can be identified. Partially (15c) is somewhat older than partly (16c) but their meanings have run in parallel except that for some of its history partially has meant ‘in a partial or biased way’, i.e. the opposite of impartially. In current English, according to the evidence of the OEC, partly is almost twice as common as partially.
2. Fowler (1926) attempted to make a distinction in principle between partially and partly by defining partially as contrasted with completely (i.e. = to a limited degree) and partly as contrasted with wholly (i.e. = as regards a part and not the whole). His illustrations based on this criterion were It is partly wood / This was partly due to cowardice and a partially drunken sailor / his partially re-established health, which in all cases show idiomatic uses that are not readily replaced by the alternative word. So if we say, for example, The room is partly panelled, we mean that only part of the room is meant to be panelled, whereas if we say The room is partially panelled, we mean that the panelling has still to be completed.
3. Fowler's rubric still works up to a point, but the meanings shade into each other and current usage reflects this: (partially)

• I partially solved my money problems by being paid ten shillings to play regularly at the Black Horse —Anthony Burgess, 1987

• A partially built shopping centre, for instance, will adversely affect the tenant's business —R. Walker, 1993

His new view was partially blocked by castle turrets and a gray stone drawbridge-fiction website, AmE 2005 [OEC]

• (partly) Her untidy blonde fringe partly covered her eyes —J. G. Ballard, 1988

• The door to Suzy's bedroom was wide open and her partly clothed body was spreadeagled on the bed —T. Barnes, 1991

• The strategy was only partly successful —Oxford Companion to Australian History, 2001.

4. Further observations can be made from a study of current usage:
a) Partly is used when it is balanced by a further partly or is followed by some other link phrase such as but also, and many instances of its occurrence fall in this category:

She was shaking all over, partly because she was so angry with Oliver and partly because she was so afraid —Nina Bawden, 1989


Maria jeered caustically, driven partly by masochism but also by a need to lash out —J. Bauling, 1993


This move is partly about baseball and partly about ticket sales and allSporting News, AmE 2002

. But partially occurs occasionally in this role:

In practice there were innovations, partially because of the perceived need to reduce the influence of headmen, and partially because British officials naturally governed on the basis of their own training and inclinations —J. D. Rogers, 1987

b) Partly is more often the choice when it qualifies an adjective or participial adjective that is also qualified in some other way:

Her dislike of him was of course…partly based upon a sense that he disliked her —Iris Murdoch, 1980

This is partly attributable to the increased opportunity for away travel which has increased the contact between rival groups of supporters —D. Waddington, 1992 /

His fear, partly based on intelligence he received, was if the two came together —news website, BrE 2003

c) Partly is also much preferred when it is followed by a reason or cause introduced by because, due to, on account of, as a result of, and so on (the OEC has over ten times as many examples of partly because as examples with partially), although partially can seem just as idiomatic:

I had chosen a homebirth partly for that reasonMothering Magazine, AmE 2002


The new class arose partly because almost all modern judges were educated in law schools staffed by professional law teachers as distinct from practitioners teaching part-timeQuadrant Magazine, AusE 2003


Things quieted down, partially because no one could come up with a line to top itEye Weekly, CanE 2005

d) Partially, rather than partly, is normally used to qualify words describing physical deficiencies such as blind and deaf:

Any generally available additional provision for deaf or partially blind or disturbed children, and others such as dyslexic children, was not special educational provision —S. Johnstone et al., 1992

e) Both words are used to qualify judgemental and evaluating words such as responsible, to blame, true, etc.
5. In sum, Fowler's rule and the other observations will serve if a rule is needed; but usage is inconsistent and the alleged distinctions in meaning do not always work in practice.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • partially — UK US /ˈpɑːʃəli/ adverb ► not completely: »The scheme is partially funded by government grants. »Lack of awareness about the tax credit partially explains the small number of people taking advantage of it …   Financial and business terms

  • partially — index in part, piecemeal Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • partially — [adv] incompletely by degrees, by installments, fractionally, halfway, in part, in some measure, little by little, moderately, not wholly, partly, piece by piece, piecemeal, somewhat, to a certain degree, to a certain extent; concepts 531,544 Ant …   New thesaurus

  • partially — par|tial|ly [ parʃəli ] adverb ** not completely: PARTLY: a partially clothed body discovered in the woods The airline is partially owned by British Airways. partially sighted (=not able to see well): Her father is partially sighted …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • partially — adv. Partially is used with these adjectives: ↑accurate, ↑autonomous, ↑bald, ↑blind, ↑clad, ↑closed, ↑clothed, ↑conscious, ↑deaf, ↑defective, ↑dependent, ↑ …   Collocations dictionary

  • partially — par|tial|ly [ˈpa:ʃəli US ˈpa:r ] adv formal not completely = ↑partly ▪ The operation was only partially successful. ▪ Remember that you are partially responsible for their unhappiness …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • partially — [[t]pɑ͟ː(r)ʃəli[/t]] ADV: ADV with cl/group If something happens or exists partially, it happens or exists to some extent, but not completely. Lisa is deaf in one ear and partially blind. Syn: partly …   English dictionary

  • partially */*/ — UK [ˈpɑː(r)ʃəlɪ] / US [ˈpɑrʃəlɪ] adverb not completely a partially clothed body discovered in the woods The airline is partially owned by British Airways …   English dictionary

  • partially — See partial, partially, partly …   Dictionary of problem words and expressions

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