Is there any difference between the two terms 'often' and 'oftentimes'? They seem to be used interchangeably but is one more appropriate in certain situations than others? Is 'oftentimes' an older term that is commonly replaced by 'often' nowadays?

Consider this sentence:

  • Physiological tolerances can be measured indirectly by quantifying species’ occurrences along environmental axes (citation), which is often the only way such information can be recorded for large numbers of species.

  • Physiological tolerances can be measured indirectly by quantifying species’ occurrences along environmental axes (citation), which is oftentimes the only way such information can be recorded for large numbers of species.

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    No one uses oftentimes. It's recognizable, but sounds old-fashioned.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 2:02
  • 2
    What Mitch said. You definitely wouldn't use it in a paragraph starting with such precise technical terminology as the example here. It's effectively archaic, but sufficiently well-known that oftentimes people just throw it in somewhat light-heartedly. Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 2:06
  • Grammar.com says "Often is a shortened version of the bigger word oftentimes". This is quite funny, considering that "often" is the original word, and "oftentimes" came about when people pointlessly stuck the word "times" on the end of it back in the 14th century. Btw, regarding "no one uses oftentimes": M.-Webster says, "Despite its archaic, literary ring, oftentimes is quite alive today. In fact, it seems to be more popular even now than it was thirty years or so ago, appearing frequently both in written expressions and speech" ( merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oftentimes )
    – rjpond
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 10:01

4 Answers 4


Often and oftentimes may be used with little or no distinction to mean again and again in more or less close succession, but oftentimes is occasionally preferred for intonational reasons ("He had a sense of humor which was sometimes loud, oftentimes lewd, but never deliberately unkind [...].")(1)

In the following NGRAM often is compared to oftentimes(2).

enter image description here

It would seem that the use of oftentimes is very rare in written English language.

(1) Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms
(2) NGRAM is for written language only, of course.

  • 4
    If you give an image of the ngram, you'll also want to give a link to ngram with the parameters you used, both for convenience of those who want to look at the details, but also so we know what parameters you used. I tried to repeat yours and though the general trend was the same, the graphs do not match exactly so I wonder what could be different between the two.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 1:59
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    I think it's putting it a bit strongly to say that oftentimes is "very rare" in written usage (though it is pretty uncommon in spoken usage). It's just that you're graphing it against often, which is a "very common" word. As it happens, oftentimes I use the word myself, albeit almost invariably in a somewhat tongue in cheek way. But quite often it turns out these two words aren't totally interchangeable (as in this sentence! :) Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 2:02
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    @Carlo_R., I think Mitch means a link like so: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – zpletan
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 14:16
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    @Mitch Did you really just say corpuses? Everyone in the NLP field says corpora. Honest.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 15:25
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    @tchrist: yes, I did just say that. I used to say 'lemmmata' and 'formulae' (pronounced correctly) and 'vertices' and 'cherubim'. My fellow geeks made fun of me. Now I only say 'formulas'. I've come to enjoy 'America's got talent', too.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 15:42

They mean the same thing. However, "oftentimes" is colloquial and informal, and should not be used in scholarly or academic work.


I can't find a difference in any of my online dictionaries. My best guess:

  • Often is an adverb meaning frequently.
  • Oftentimes is an adverb phrase-turned-word, and is similar to the adverb phrase many times. (The Oxford Dictionaries Online note that oftentimes is archaic or North American.)

In your example, then, either word is fine—you could substitute frequently or many times and see that the grammaticality of the sentence is preserved.

Usually (always?), often can replace oftentimes; however, the reverse is not true—for instance, you wouldn't say, "I don't do that oftentimes."


I have only ever heard American English speakers use "oftentimes", never British. It's not the case that "oftentimes" is exclusive to American English but it certainly appears to be more common.

  • Me too. I think it is more or less exclusive to American English, at least in modern use (I know it was used in the 1611 Bible).
    – rjpond
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 9:57

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