There are two meanings which serve well to illustrate the interactions of British and American English. The older meaning ‘at the present time, now’ dates from the 15c and is still the dominant meaning in AmE. In BrE it has been largely overtaken by the second sense ‘in a while, soon’, although the older meaning has begun to reappear under the American influence. The two meanings are shown by the examples that follow: (newer meaning)

• Her feet hurt and she was thirsty. Presently she set off to walk back to her lodgings —Hilary Mantel, 1986

• (older meaning) According to the spokesperson, the study presently is under peer review —The New Farm, AmE 2003 [OEC].

The context normally makes clear which meaning is intended, but ambiguity can be avoided by using synonyms such as at present, now, or currently in the older meaning and soon, shortly, in a while, imminently, etc. in the other meaning. See also momentarily.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Presently — Pres ent*ly, adv. 1. At present; at this time; now. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] The towns and forts you presently have. Sir P. Sidney. [1913 Webster] 2. At once; without delay; forthwith; also, less definitely, soon; shortly; before long; after a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • presently — presently, shortly, soon, directly are comparable when they mean after a little while or before long. Presently carries this as its chief meaning; it is a term of rather vague implication as to the time indicated {the doctor will be here… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • presently — index in due course, instantly Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • presently — (adv.) late 14c., immediately, at this time, from PRESENT (Cf. present) (adj.) + LY (Cf. ly) (2). By 1560s it had relaxed into sooner or later …   Etymology dictionary

  • presently — [adv] in a short while anon, before long, before you know it, by and by, directly, down the line*, down the pike*, down the road*, immediately, in a minute, in a moment, in a short time, now, nowadays, pretty soon, shortly, soon, today, without… …   New thesaurus

  • presently — ► ADVERB 1) after a short time; soon. 2) at the present time; now …   English terms dictionary

  • presently — [prez′ənt lē] adv. 1. in a little while; soon 2. at present; now: a usage objected to by some 3. Archaic at once; instantly …   English World dictionary

  • presently — [[t]pre̱z(ə)ntli[/t]] 1) ADV: ADV before v, ADV group If you say that something is presently happening, you mean that it is happening now. She is presently developing a number of projects... The island is presently uninhabited... He is presently… …   English dictionary

  • presently — /prez euhnt lee/, adv. 1. in a little while; soon: They will be here presently. 2. at the present time; now: He is presently out of the country. 3. Archaic. immediately. [1350 1400; ME; see PRESENT1, LY] Syn. 1. shortly, forthwith. Ant. 1. later …   Universalium

  • presently — adverb formal 1 in a short time; soon: The doctor will be here presently. | Presently a bell rang and they all trooped into school. 2 especially AmE and ScotE now; at this time: Scientists are presently working on identifying the cause of the… …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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