[ buht; unstressed buht ]
See synonyms for but on Thesaurus.com
  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.

  1. unless; if not; except that (followed by a clause, often with that expressed): Nothing would do but that I should come in.

  2. without the circumstance that: It never rains but it pours.

  3. otherwise than: There is no hope but by prayer.

  4. that (used especially after doubt, deny, etc., with a negative): I don't doubt but he will do it.

  5. who not; that not: No leaders worthy of the name ever existed but they were optimists.

  6. (used as an intensifier to introduce an exclamatory expression): But she's beautiful!

  7. 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.

Idioms about but

  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 but

First recorded before 900; Middle English buten, Old English būtan, contraction of be ūtan “on the outside, without”; see by, out

synonym study For but

2. See except1.

Grammar notes for but

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.

Words that may be confused with but

Other definitions for but (2 of 4)

[ buht ]

  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 but

First recorded in 1715–25; noun use of adverb but1 “outside, outside the house”

Other definitions for but (3 of 4)

[ buht ]

nounplural (especially collectively) but, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) buts.
  1. a variant of butt5.

Other definitions for but- (4 of 4)


  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. 2023

How to use but in a sentence

  • One of their punishments will be the corroding contemplation of the "ifs" and "buts" of their stupendous gamble.

    1914 | John French, Viscount of Ypres

British Dictionary definitions for but (1 of 2)


/ (bʌt, unstressed bət) /

  1. contrary to expectation: he cut his knee but didn't cry

  2. in contrast; on the contrary: I like opera but my husband doesn't

  1. (usually used after a negative) other than: we can't do anything but wait

  1. (usually used after a negative) without it happening or being the case that: we never go out but it rains

  2. (foll by that) except that: nothing is impossible but that we live forever

  1. archaic if not; unless

sentence connector
  1. informal used to introduce an exclamation: my, but you're nice

  1. except; save: they saved all but one of the pigs

  2. but for were it not for: but for you, we couldn't have managed

  1. just; merely; only: he was but a child; I can but try

  2. Scot, Australian and NZ informal though; however: it's a rainy day: warm, but

  1. all but almost; practically: he was all but dead when we found him

  1. an objection (esp in the phrase ifs and buts)

Origin of but

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

British Dictionary definitions for but (2 of 2)


/ (bʌt) Scot /

  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

Origin of 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

Other Idioms and Phrases with but


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.