What Does Certainly Not Mean?

Certainly Not Meaning

Definition: Absolutely not; definitely not.

Many people use this expression to emphasize a negative statement.

Origin of Certainly Not!

The word certainly is an adverb that means without doubt, surely, or absolutely. It comes from Middle English and appeared around the year 1300.

Not, also an adverb, is added on to make the expression negative. It also comes from Middle English, and appeared in English around the same time as certainly.

Examples of Certainly Not!

Define certainly notIn this conversation, a mother disagrees with her daughter’s idea.

Daughter: Mom, I think I’d like to study abroad for a semester.

Mother: Why? What purpose would that serve?

Daughter: I want to go see the world. I want to learn another language!

Mother: That’s going to be expensive. How will you pay for that?

Daughter: I thought you might be able to help pay.

Mother: Certainly not!

Daughter: Why not?

Mother: I think it’s a bad idea. It’s not safe to be that far from home. I certainly won’t help you do it.

Meaning of certainly notIn this example, two coworkers talk about their diets.

Dave: Hey, it’s noon. Let’s go grab lunch.

Ben: Maybe we should go separately today.

Dave: Why? What’s the matter?

Ben: It’s just that recently you’ve been trying to eat such healthy food. It really restricts our choices for where to eat.

Dave: I’m flexible. Where do you want to eat?

Ben: Could we go to that burger joint on the corner?

Dave: Certainly not! Are you trying to kill me? Their food is so greasy.

Ben: That doesn’t sound very flexible to me.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about movies nominated for an Oscar, a prestigious award. The author is debating whether or not one particular movie is happy.

  • Was it also unhappy? I’ve had this discussion with many friends. It’s certainly not unabashedly happy. But is it unhappy? You could certainly make the case.  At the very least it’s melancholy. –LA Times

This example is from an article about Snapchat, a popular social media app. The person in the quote wants to emphasize that Snapchat will not be popular only in the short term. Rather, it will be popular for a long time.   

  • “Investors are clearly saying that they are expecting Snap to be the next digital media giant,” he wrote in a note to investors. “This is certainly not a short-term bet by IPO investors, but a long-term view that Snap (which even at $17 a share is 1/16th the size of Facebook’s market cap) can be a long term winner.” –USA Today


Certainly not emphasizes the speaker’s unwillingness to do something.