I would like to know the difference between the words perchance and perhaps. I know that perchance is more literary, and a bit archaic, but that's not what I am after.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists perchance as a synonym of perhaps.


perhaps, possibly

The entry for perhaps.


possibly but not certainly : maybe

I would like to know if the two words have any differences in meaning, tone, or connotation. Does perchance imply that an event is less likely than perhaps? Is the tone more wistful? Does it connote that an outcome is more desirable?


I object to people who say that “perchance” is “outdated” or “archaic”. It is a perfectly good word in modern English, but it belongs to the literary or elevated register. “Perhaps” is also not very common in colloquial speech. The vernacular equivalent is “maybe”.

  • 1
    Good to find someone who champions the word. Sounds like the main difference is register? i.e. "perchance", "perhaps", and "maybe" are respectively literary, formal, and vernacular? – ktm5124 Mar 13 '17 at 21:34
  • It might be good to have some explanation from whoever it was that downvoted this. – fdb Mar 13 '17 at 23:05
  • 1
    “ To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;” —Shakespeare – Xanne yesterday
  • I disagree with the notion that "perhaps" is not very common compared to "maybe". On the contrary, according to Google Ngrams, "perhaps" is more common. The usage of "maybe" was negligible in comparison until ~1910; between then & 2005, its usage rose slowly, & until 2011 faster, but even after then, the usage of "perhaps" was ~2.5 times as great. A Google Ngram restricted to American English shows a similar usage pattern, except that the usage of "maybe" is greater, & its recent rapid rise started around 2000; still, even recently, the usage of "perhaps" is ~1.5 times as great. – Rosie F yesterday

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.