It seems that in most use cases, "seemingly" has at least a small negative connotation. Are there any use cases where it doesn't have a negative connotation?

Some examples:

  1. The man seemingly has a wonderful life.
  2. I seemingly did well on the test.
  3. The bratwurst is seemingly done.

In sentence 1, to me, the addition of the word "seemingly" immediately creates doubt about whether the man's life really is wonderful. It seems that there is no reason to add "seemingly" unless you want to cast doubt on the statement made.

In sentence 2, we can have two scenarios: before receiving the grade and after receiving the grade. In the first scenario, the student feels the did a good job but because of the addition of "seemingly" we know that the student can imagine a world where they didn't do as well as expected. In the second scenario, the student received their grade but because of the addition of "seemingly" we can infer that they are not confident in something about it, maybe they felt they did a bad job and the teacher disagrees for some reason.

In sentence 3, the addition of "seemingly" creates doubt that the meat is either fully cooked which could lead to a terrible time in the bathroom or that it's not quite cooked to a preference which hinders the enjoyment of eating it ("could have been better"). Regardless of which turns out the be the case, it still creates doubt about the status of the bratwurst.

So seemingly it seems to be the case that "seemingly" has a negative connotation. ;) To reiterate my question, are there any use cases where it doesn't have a negative connotation? I guess it's only appropriate to limit this question to talking about "in general" because individual people can have opinions far from the norm (I'm still interested in hearing anyone's opinion though!).

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    The implication of seemingly is opposition between appearance and reality. What you see is not what you get, in other words, and logical negation is involved. It turns out that the situations where one finds a use for a special adverb to mark that opposition are normally situations where warning is involved, and they usually involve some negative judgement, as well as logical negation. Dec 16, 2016 at 16:11
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    'Are there any use cases where it doesn't have a negative connotation?' doesn't appreciate the very subjective nature most treatments of 'connotation' assume. '2,4 dinitrophenylhydrazine' may have a negative connotation for some people. // 'Seemingly' is often a concessive, and these often do have a negative bias, but it can substitute for an unmarked 'apparently': The coal reserves on planets in the Desplaines sector are seemingly inexhaustible'. Dec 16, 2016 at 16:12
  • Try looking up the word in a good dictionary, such as Oxford and look at the definition and then the seemingly dozen plus example sentences. May 14, 2018 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


In a word, I would say no, but I will elaborate of course.

I believe it depends on whether you're a "glass is half full" or "glass is half empty" type and, more importantly, on the context within which it is used. The word implies a lack of surety. Consider these uses.

Something might be "seemingly unbeatable." What if this is your favorite ball team? Or your most hated opponent? Or your child's ball team? Or a fantastic bowl of jambalaya?

A confrontation "has seemingly been averted." If the confrontation here is a senseless war, this sounds tremendously positive. But what if this confrontation was with a reality that needs to be addressed and should not be averted? Like a diagnosis of a serious illness. Or a family member's dangerous drug addiction.

I believe what you are picking up on is that seemingly implies a certain amount of unknown, and we tend to be skeptical of the unknown. In that way, I think you're right. But the flip side of this is that curiosity and exploration and discovery are highly dependent on the unknown. How is this then a negative?


  • Yes, in certain (probably informal) circumstances, it is seemingly speculative. This is seemingly a good place to look for salamanders, and apparently it was for Jones. But @JohnLawler 's comment above covers the more common use. Related english.stackexchange.com/questions/44335/…
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 16, 2016 at 17:21
  • @PhilSweet this seems more of a literal view. "Seemingly endless" when distilled down to its essence would be "not endless." But whether the connotation derived from "not endless" is positive or negative is entirely dependent on the context, and I would hold that carries over to seemingly as well. A "seemingly endless line of customers at the supermarket" has two different connotations to the person working the register and the person who owns said supermarket. Dec 16, 2016 at 17:34

In my opinion, seemingly references ones perspective. Nothing more, nothing less. It has nothing to do with reality or truth.

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    Welcome to ELU, please add a source to support your answer.
    – JJJ
    May 14, 2018 at 18:25

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