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?


2 Answers 2


I object to people who say that “perchance” is “outdated” or “archaic”.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, 2017 at 21:34
  • It might be good to have some explanation from whoever it was that downvoted this.
    – fdb
    Mar 13, 2017 at 23:05
  • 1
    “ To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;” —Shakespeare
    – Xanne
    Jan 22, 2021 at 6:59
  • 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
    Jan 22, 2021 at 9:22

The difference is obvious. It lies in leaving a probability to an immediate (as random as it is) occurrence with no preset value, and an occurrence with a set of them (denoted by opportunity) considered.

I wonder why peropportunity never gained traction. I mean, it could have, give that mayhap found a way to exist?

An example from moments ago: (Yes, I'm a Professional writer) You may need heat-extension to your bathroom perchance? On the other hand, the premise needs to be vague if you find that burgeoning... uh, impulse? in order to use Perhaps — "You may need heat extension, perhaps?" — Juust like that, no premise, no implication(s). "Perhaps" is contrastingly employed in out-of-the-blue situations.

Be it as it may, as someone from a non-English background I've found Perhaps is employed increasingly in literary communication while Maybe, as a vernacular substitute. As in Colloquially. Whereas Perchance — its awareness amongst modern English users is very less, my Wo(men).

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