\ ˈbət How to pronounce but (audio) \

Definition of but

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1a : except for the fact would have protested but that he was afraid
b : that used after a negative there is no doubt but he won
c : without the concomitant that it never rains but it pours
d : if not : unless
e : than no sooner started but it stopped not often in formal use
2a : on the contrary : on the other hand : notwithstanding used to connect coordinate elements he was called but he did not answernot peace but a sword
b : yet poor but proud
c : with the exception of used before a word often taken to be the subject of a clause none but the brave deserves the fair— John Dryden
but that
: that used after a negative there is no doubt but that it must be done
but what
: that … not used to indicate possibility or uncertainty I don't know but what I will go

Definition of but (Entry 2 of 5)

1a : with the exception of : barring no one there but me — compare but entry 1 sense 2c
b : other than this letter is nothing but an insult
2 Scotland
b : outside



Definition of but (Entry 3 of 5)

1 : only, merely he is but a child
2 Scotland : outside
3 : to the contrary who knows but that she may succeed
4 used as an intensive get there but fast



Definition of but (Entry 4 of 5)

: that not : who not nobody but has his fault— William Shakespeare



Definition of but (Entry 5 of 5)

: the kitchen or living quarters of a 2-room cottage

Synonyms for but

Synonyms: Conjunction

Synonyms: Preposition

Synonyms: Adverb

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Examples of but in a Sentence

Conjunction We had no choice but to leave. They've done nothing but argue all afternoon. Preposition There was no one there but him. I didn't tell anyone but my sister. Who but you would think that? Adverb They have but two weeks to get ready. she is but a child and too young to understand such things See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Conjunction But scientists and doctors say things aren’t that simple — and a belief that exposing children to marijuana, either directly or indirectly, is harmless isn’t supported by the facts. Daniel M. Jimenez, The Cannifornian, 22 June 2017 But with a full and volatile season behind them, the two have grown closer, prompting check-ins from Bradford last month, seeking tidbits from his coach who watched OTA practices on a tablet from his Kentucky retreat. Chad Graff, Twin Cities, 15 June 2017 The tech firm didn’t pull that video down, but reached out to police. Queenie Wong, The Mercury News, 3 May 2017 But campus leaders like Chancellor Vincent Fulginiti and many community donors had a bigger vision. Matthew Wynia, The Denver Post, 1 May 2017 Normally a chain moving here wouldn’t pique my interest too much, but this place has got some serious fans — called ‘ Allyson Reedy, The Know, 24 Apr. 2017 The powerhouse, year-round clubs might be peaking again but the strongest undercurrents Saturday came from team connections. Dan Albano, Orange County Register, 22 Apr. 2017 But enough do to make a significant dent in the prescription numbers. Christopher Ingraham, The Cannabist, 21 Apr. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition Normally, big job losses trigger massive searches for full-time jobs, but this crisis has been anything but normal. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, 1 June 2020 Despite the pleas for calm, the nation seemed anything but as a fitful week drew to a close. Robert Klemko, Washington Post, 30 May 2020 Despite the pleas for calm, the nation seemed anything but as a fitful week drew to a close. Robert Klemko, BostonGlobe.com, 29 May 2020 The Big Ten hasn’t enacted a conference-wide date but Ohio State, which is scheduled to visit Oregon a week after NDSU on Sept. 12, has said its players will begin workouts June 8. oregonlive, 28 May 2020 These assumptions are in need of scrutiny, not by comparison with other countries but of this country with itself a few generations ago. Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review of Books, 27 May 2020 Nick has more power but Joey is a bit more nimble -- everything else is essentially equal. John Owning, Dallas News, 27 May 2020 Some people just believe that there’s no way but to just fight back. Chris Buckley, New York Times, 15 May 2020 Facebook has no option but to get its act together in India. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, 23 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb The wide-angle lens of television invites immersion in a pivotal midlife decade that—for anyone juggling a career, children, and aging parents, as well as their own compromises, regrets, and unfulfilled ambitions—is anything but dry. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, 3 Feb. 2022 The narrative thrust hangs on the hook of a seemingly ordinary American family ending up in a situation that’s anything but, and the enterprise is to figure out what exactly happened. Nicholas Quah, Vulture, 5 Jan. 2021 Mahomes likely won’t get but deserves the MVP award after overcoming a slightly tougher road than Rodgers to get his conference’s top seed. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Dec. 2020 Anyone meeting its representatives and leaders cannot but be impressed by their knowledge, education, and intelligence. Douglas Carr, National Review, 14 Sep. 2020 Pliskova jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second set, and while Wozniacki held her serve, Pliskova did not let up, winning all of her first serve points and all but two on her second serve. Alexa Philippou, Cincinnati.com, 19 Aug. 2017 The controversies of this presidency have made bipartisan cooperation all but impossible, and there is not enough unity among Republicans to pass politically charged legislation on a partisan basis. James Capretta, National Review, 19 Aug. 2017 However, according to reports from Argentine journalist Lucas Ajuria on Twitter, Simeone's future at Genoa is all but over, and Spurs are set to scrap it out with Serie A side Fiorentina for the player's signature. SI.com, 2 Aug. 2017 By 5 p.m. Tuesday, some 1,200 workers, including tree and line crews from KCP&L and other utilities, had restored power to all but 2,400 customers. Lily O’neill, Shane Sanderson, And Lily Oppenheimer, kansascity, 25 July 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But there was a but of confusion from the judges and fans at home. Leah Rocketto, Woman's Day, 29 Oct. 2020 But even the tech titans have lots of shrugs and buts. Shira Ovide, New York Times, 1 May 2020 That way there's no ifs, ands or buts about what's going on. Bobby Nightengale, Cincinnati.com, 4 Mar. 2020 Ohio State yeah-buts teams like Rutgers all the time. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland.com, 16 Sep. 2019 Investor advocates have long wanted one set of rules to apply to both advisors and brokers: that anyone handling money put investors’ interests first, with no ifs, ands or buts. Barry Ritholtz, latimes.com, 24 June 2019 As for consumers who still subscribe to traditional cable and for whom these streaming services are just additive, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: the monthly fees are mounting. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, 10 Oct. 2018 Le meneur de jeu espagnol a marqué 10 buts et a offert 18 passes décisives cette saison. SI.com, 17 Apr. 2018 Weigh-in daily No ifs, ands, or buts, about it, get on the scale. Kimberly Garrison, Philly.com, 1 May 2018 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'but.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of but


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1518, in the meaning defined above


1724, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for but

Conjunction, Preposition, Adverb, and Pronoun

Middle English, from Old English būtan, preposition & conjunction, outside, without, except, except that; akin to Old High German būzan without, except; akin to Old English be by, ūt out — more at by entry 1, out entry 1


Scots but, adjective (outer)

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Time Traveler for but

Time Traveler

The first known use of but was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near but




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Statistics for but

Cite this Entry

“But.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/but. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for but


\ bət How to pronounce but (audio) \

Kids Definition of but

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : yet nevertheless She fell but wasn't hurt. He was poor but proud.
2 : while just the opposite I ski but you don't.
3 : except that : unless It never rains but it pours.



Kids Definition of but (Entry 2 of 3)

: other than : except everyone but you



Kids Definition of but (Entry 3 of 3)

: only entry 2 sense 1 We have but one choice.

More from Merriam-Webster on but

Nglish: Translation of but for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of but for Arabic Speakers


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