• synonyms


[buht; unstressed buh t]
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  1. on the contrary; yet: My brother went, but I did not.
  2. except; save: She was so overcome with grief she could do nothing but weep.
  3. unless; if not; except that (followed by a clause, often with that expressed): Nothing would do but that I should come in.
  4. without the circumstance that: It never rains but it pours.
  5. otherwise than: There is no hope but by prayer.
  6. that (used especially after doubt, deny, etc., with a negative): I don't doubt but he will do it.
  7. who not; that not: No leaders worthy of the name ever existed but they were optimists.
  8. (used as an intensifier to introduce an exclamatory expression): But she's beautiful!
  9. Informal. than: It no sooner started raining but it stopped.
  1. with the exception of; except; save: No one replied but me.
  1. only; just: There is but one God.
  1. buts, reservations or objections: You'll do as you're told, no buts about it.
  1. but for, except for; were it not for: But for the excessive humidity, it might have been a pleasant day.
  2. but what. what(def 25).

Origin of but1

before 900; Middle English buten, Old English būtan for phrase be ūtan on the outside, without. See by1, out
Can be confusedbut butt

Synonym study

1. But, however, nevertheless, still, yet are words implying opposition (with a possible concession). But marks an opposition or contrast, though in a casual way: We are going, but we shall return. However indicates a less marked opposition, but displays a second consideration to be compared with the first: We are going; however ( “notice this also” ), we shall return. Nevertheless implies a concession, something which should not be forgotten in making a summing up: We are going; nevertheless ( “do not forget that” ), we shall return. Still implies that in spite of a preceding concession, something must be considered as possible or even inevitable: We have to go on foot; still ( “it is probable and possible that” ), we'll get there. Yet implies that in spite of a preceding concession, there is still a chance for a different outcome: We are going; yet ( “in spite of all, some day” ), we shall return. 2. See except1.

Usage note

1. But, like and, is a common transitional word and often begins sentences. When it is used in the middle of a sentence as a coordinating conjunction like and or so, it is not followed by a comma unless the comma is one of a pair setting off a parenthetical expression: His political affiliations make no difference, but his lack of ethics does. The cast is nearly complete, but, our efforts notwithstanding, we lack a star. See also and, so1.
2, 10. When but is understood as a conjunction and the pronoun following it is understood as the subject of an incompletely expressed clause, the pronoun is in the subjective case: Everyone lost faith in the plan but she ( did not lose faith ). In virtually identical contexts, when but is understood as a preposition, the pronoun following it is in the objective case: Everyone lost faith but her. The prepositional use is more common. However, when prepositional but and its following pronoun occur near the beginning of a sentence, the subjective case often appears: Everyone but she lost faith in the plan. See also doubt, than.


noun Scot.
  1. the outer or front room of a house; the outer or front apartment in an apartment house.
  2. the kitchen of a two-room dwelling, especially of a cottage.

Origin of but2

1715–25; noun use of but1 (adv.) outside, outside the house


  1. butt5.


or but

  1. any of several flatfishes, especially the halibut.

Origin of butt5

1250–1300; Middle English butte; cognate with Sw butta turbot, German Butt brill, turbot, flounder, Dutch bot flounder


  1. a combining form meaning “containing a group of four carbon atoms,” used in the formation of compound words: butene.

Origin of but-

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for but


conjunction (coordinating)
  1. contrary to expectationhe cut his knee but didn't cry
  2. in contrast; on the contraryI like opera but my husband doesn't
  3. (usually used after a negative) other thanwe can't do anything but wait
conjunction (subordinating)
  1. (usually used after a negative) without it happening or being the case thatwe never go out but it rains
  2. (foll by that) except thatnothing is impossible but that we live forever
  3. archaic if not; unless
sentence connector
  1. informal used to introduce an exclamationmy, but you're nice
  1. except; savethey saved all but one of the pigs
  2. but for were it not forbut for you, we couldn't have managed
  1. just; merely; onlyhe was but a child; I can but try
  2. Scot, Australian and NZ informal though; howeverit's a rainy day: warm, but
  3. all but almost; practicallyhe was all but dead when we found him
  1. an objection (esp in the phrase ifs and buts)

Word Origin

Old English būtan without, outside, except, from be by + ūtan out; related to Old Saxon biūtan, Old High German biūzan


  1. the outer room of a two-roomed cottage: usually the kitchen
preposition, adverb
  1. in or into the outer part (of a house)Compare ben 1

Word Origin

C18: from but (adv) outside, hence, outer room; see but 1


  1. Dame Clara . 1872–1936, English contralto


  1. the thicker or blunt end of something, such as the end of the stock of a rifle
  2. the unused end of something, esp of a cigarette; stub
  3. tanning the portion of a hide covering the lower backside of the animal
  4. US and Canadian informal the buttocks
  5. US a slang word for cigarette
  6. building trades short for butt joint, butt hinge

Word Origin

C15 (in the sense: thick end of something, buttock): related to Old English buttuc end, ridge, Middle Dutch bot stumpy


  1. a person or thing that is the target of ridicule, wit, etc
  2. shooting archery
    1. a mound of earth behind the target on a target range that stops bullets or wide shots
    2. the target itself
    3. (plural)the target range
  3. a low barrier, usually of sods or peat, behind which sportsmen shoot game birds, esp grouse
  4. archaic goal; aim
  1. (usually foll by on or against) to lie or be placed end on to; abutto butt a beam against a wall

Word Origin

C14 (in the sense: mark for archery practice): from Old French but; related to French butte knoll, target


  1. to strike or push (something) with the head or horns
  2. (intr) to project; jut
  3. (intr ; foll by in or into) to intrude, esp into a conversation; interfere; meddle
  4. butt out informal, mainly US and Canadian to stop interfering or meddling
  1. a blow with the head or horns
Derived Formsbutter, noun

Word Origin

C12: from Old French boter, of Germanic origin; compare Middle Dutch botten to strike; see beat, button


  1. a large cask, esp one with a capacity of two hogsheads, for storing wine or beer
  2. a US unit of liquid measure equal to 126 US gallons

Word Origin

C14: from Old French botte, from Old Provençal bota, from Late Latin buttis cask, perhaps from Greek butinē chamber pot
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for but

adv., prep.

Old English butan, buton "unless, except; without, outside," from West Germanic *be-utan, a compound of *be- "by" (see by) + *utana "out, outside; from without," from ut "out" (see out (adv.)). Not used as a conjunction in Old English. As a noun from late 14c.



"thick end," c.1400, butte, which probably is related to Middle Dutch and Dutch bot, Low German butt "blunt, dull," Old Norse bauta (see beat (v.)). Or related somehow to Old English buttuc "end, small piece of land," and Old Norse butr "short." In sense of "human posterior" it is recorded from mid-15c. Meaning "remainder of a smoked cigarette" first recorded 1847.



"liquor barrel," late 14c., from Anglo-French but and Old French bot "barrel, wineskin" (14c., Modern French botte), from Late Latin buttis "cask" (see bottle (n.)). Cognate with Spanish and Portuguese bota, Italian botte. Usually a cask holding 108 to 140 gallons, or roughly two hogsheads, but the measure varied greatly.



"target of a joke," 1610s, originally "target for shooting practice" (mid-14c.), from Old French but "aim, goal, end, target (of an arrow, etc.)," 13c., which seems to be a fusion of Old French words for "end" (bout) and "aim, goal" (but), both ultimately from Germanic. The latter is from Frankish *but "stump, stock, block," or some other Germanic source (cf. Old Norse butr "log of wood"), which would connect it with butt (n.1).



"hit with the head," c.1200, from Anglo-French buter, from Old French boter "to push, shove, knock; to thrust against," from Frankish or another Germanic source (cf. Old Norse bauta, Low German boten "to strike, beat"), from Proto-Germanic *butan, from PIE root *bhau- "to strike" (see batter (v.)). Related: Butted; butting. To butt in "rudely intrude" is American English, attested from 1900.



"flat fish," c.1300, a general Germanic name applied to various kinds of flat fishes; cf. Old Swedish but "flatfish," German Butte, Dutch bot, perhaps ultimately related to butt (n.1). "Hence butt-woman, who sells these, a fish-wife." [OED]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with but


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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