I had never heard anyone use "oftentimes" as a word until I watched an American in a youtube video about 5 years ago. I am confident that where I am in Australia and in the UK that it wouldn't be standard English; if you wrote it in a school essay you would gte a red mark. So from the wiktionary:

inherited from the Middle English oftentymes; equivalent to oftentime +‎ -s. Compare oftentime.

So if it had an origin of Middle English as above, rather than an American origin, then why did oftentimes not become standard English in the UK, Australia or other parts of the Anglosphere?

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    Like most "why" questions about language, the answer is "because that's how it happened". You might be able to find evidence of how it happened, when it happened, other changes which were associated. But there is no answer to "why">
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 30, 2019 at 21:01
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    Yes let's all follow the Richard Dawkins school and never ask why. Jul 1, 2019 at 0:31
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    @Snack_Food_Termite Language change is a chaotic system. Perhaps if a certain author had chosen to use "oftentimes" in a certain book in a certain year, it would have stuck around in England. But until we have a time machine, that's not a falsifiable hypothesis.
    – Draconis
    Jul 3, 2019 at 4:08
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    Now, sometimes it is totally possible to say why something happened: English has the word "beef" because of the Norman invasion. But this isn't one of those cases.
    – Draconis
    Jul 3, 2019 at 4:09
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    The Macquarie Dictionary (a standard reference on Australian English) lists it as 'archaic'. I doubt it would attract a red mark if used in a school essay (I'm Australian and was once a teacher) but would rather be seen as evidence of a broad vocabulary from wide reading. But for whatever historical reasons, it is now rarely used in Australia. Jul 4, 2019 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


As the OED puts it:

Now chiefly North American; otherwise archaic or literary.

It used to be a standard English word, attested from the late 1300s (well before any sort of "American English" existed).

But somewhere in the 1800s, it fell out of fashion in England, and stopped being actively used. This happens to a variety of words without any real rhyme or reason to it; now people will understand what it means, but it's seen as somewhat archaic.

In America, that fall from grace never happened; it remains a fairly common word up to the present day.

  • I notice as an electronic musician that it's used a lot in electronic music tutorials with American instructors: oftentimes I set my keyboard to... no idea why. I wonder if it's a musical usage to say X times like there's a rap phrase nasty times [nastytimes as one word?] Jun 30, 2019 at 2:59
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    @Snack_Food_Termite I think you're overthinking it a bit. It's just a common American word, and most Americans (myself included) don't think twice about using it. It's like how Australians and Brits use "mate" in a way that Americans almost never do.
    – Draconis
    Jul 1, 2019 at 20:57

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