of·ten (ôfən, ŏfən, ôftən, ŏf-)
adv. of·ten·er, of·ten·est
Many times; frequently.
[Middle English, alteration (probably influenced by selden, seldom) of oft, from Old English; see upo in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: The pronunciation of often with a (t) is a classic example of what is known as a spelling pronunciation. During the 1500s and 1600s, English experienced a widespread loss of certain consonant sounds within consonant clusters, as the (d) in handsome and handkerchief, the (p) in consumption and raspberry, and the (t) in chestnut and often. In this way the consonant clusters were simplified and made easier to articulate. But with the rise of public education and literacy in the 1800s, people became more aware of spelling, and sounds that had become silent were sometimes restored. This is the case with the (t) in often, which is acceptably pronounced with or without the (t). In similar words, such as soften and listen, the t has generally remained silent.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.