adjective on·ly \ˈōn-lē\

: alone in a class or category : existing with no other or others of the same kind

Full Definition of ONLY

:  unquestionably the best :  peerless
a :  alone in a class or category :  sole <the only one left> <the only known species>
b :  having no brother or sister <an only child>
:  few <one of the only areas not yet explored>

Examples of ONLY

  1. <the only way to really appreciate the beauty of the forest is to walk through it>
  2. <that is the only possible right answer>

Origin of ONLY

Middle English, from Old English ānlīc, from ān one — more at one
First Known Use: before 12th century

Related to ONLY

incomparable, inimitable, matchless, nonpareil, peerless, unequaled (or unequalled), unexampled, unmatched, unparalleled, unrivaled (or unrivalled), unsurpassable, unsurpassed, out of sight

Rhymes with ONLY



: no more than

: nothing other than

: excluding all others : nobody or nothing except

Full Definition of ONLY

a :  as a single fact or instance and nothing more or different :  merely <has only lost one election — George Orwell>
b :  solely, exclusively <known only to him>
:  at the very least <it was only too true>
a :  in the final outcome <will only make you sick>
b :  with nevertheless the final result <won the battles, only to lose the war>
a :  as recently as :  not before <only last week> <only in the last year did she get recognition>
b :  in the immediate past <only just talked to her>

Usage Discussion of ONLY

The placement of only in a sentence has been a source of studious commentary since the 18th century, most of it intended to prove by force of argument that prevailing standard usage is wrong. After 200 years of preachment the following observations may be made: the position of only in standard spoken English is not fixed, since ambiguity is avoided through sentence stress; in casual prose that keeps close to the rhythms of speech only is often placed where it would be in speech; and in edited and more formal prose only tends to be placed immediately before the word or words it modifies.

Examples of ONLY

  1. She had been there only twice in her life.
  2. There are only two more weeks until summer vacation.
  3. It's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.
  4. Do you really have to leave? It's only eight o'clock.
  5. He was only a baby when his father died.
  6. Leave her alone. She's only a kid.
  7. The building is only about 10 years old.
  8. It was quiet in the room, but only for a moment.
  9. She is only partly to blame.
  10. The club is for women only.

First Known Use of ONLY

14th century



Definition of ONLY

a :  with the restriction that :  but <you may go, only come back early>
b :  and yet :  however <they look very nice, only we can't use them>
:  were it not that :  except <I'd introduce you to her, only you'd win her — Jack London>

Examples of ONLY

  1. I'd love to sing along, only I don't know the words.
  2. They did have a radio, only it was broken.
  3. We wanted to buy that painting, only it was far too expensive.

First Known Use of ONLY

14th century

Related to ONLY

but, except, saving, yet


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May 30, 2015
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