Nearby words

  1. busy work,
  2. busy-work,
  3. busybody,
  4. busyness,
  5. busywork,
  6. but and ben,
  7. but for,
  8. but good,
  9. but-,
  10. butabarbital sodium


    but for, except for; were it not for: But for the excessive humidity, it might have been a pleasant day.
    but what. what(def 25).

Origin of but

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for but for



conjunction (coordinating)

contrary to expectationhe cut his knee but didn't cry
in contrast; on the contraryI like opera but my husband doesn't
(usually used after a negative) other thanwe can't do anything but wait

conjunction (subordinating)

(usually used after a negative) without it happening or being the case thatwe never go out but it rains
(foll by that) except thatnothing is impossible but that we live forever
archaic if not; unless

sentence connector

informal used to introduce an exclamationmy, but you're nice


except; savethey saved all but one of the pigs
but for were it not forbut for you, we couldn't have managed


just; merely; onlyhe was but a child; I can but try
Scot, Australian and NZ informal though; howeverit's a rainy day: warm, but
all but almost; practicallyhe was all but dead when we found him


an objection (esp in the phrase ifs and buts)

Word Origin for but

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




the outer room of a two-roomed cottage: usually the kitchen

preposition, adverb

in or into the outer part (of a house)Compare ben 1

Word Origin for but

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

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 for


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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with but for

but for

Except for, were it not for. For example, But for the afternoon shower, it was a perfect day, or But for the children, they would have gotten a divorce long ago. [c. 1200]


In addition to the idioms beginning with but

  • but for
  • but good

also see:

  • all but
  • all over but the shouting
  • anything but
  • can't help but
  • close but no cigar
  • everything but the kitchen sink
  • it never rains but it pours
  • last but not least
  • no ifs or buts
  • nothing but
  • sadder but wiser
  • separate but equal
  • slow but sure
  • spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
  • there but for the grace of god
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.