Often, when I’m giving workshops, a hand raises into the air with a great question. Oftentimes, it’s a question that makes me pause and think.
Recently, the question was this: If we should try to make the most of our words and tighten superfluous language, why would you say “oftentimes” instead of just “often”?
It was a fabulous question, one I didn’t immediately have the answer to.
Here’s the answer:
Both “often” and “oftentimes” have been in constant use since the 14th century, sometimes even joined by their companions “oft” and “ofttimes.” “Oft” is usually only used in a hyphenated form these days, such as “oft-praised,” and “ofttimes” has fallen out of use; however, the other two versions live on with popularity.
“Often” is the more commonly used of the two, but sources seem to agree that there’s an old-fashioned style that is appreciated in “oftentimes” that makes it unique from “often.” It’s a tone difference, not a definition difference, though.
For most modern uses, always thinking about tightening up our language, making the most of every single word, “often” is the way to go, but there’s nothing wrong with a well placed “oftentimes.”
Now, is it time to bring back “ofttimes” for a really antiquated feel? Probably not. But next time someone questions your “often” vs. “oftentimes” usage, at least you’ll have an answer.
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