\ˈbət \

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

a : without, lacking

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for but

Synonyms: Conjunction

except (also excepting), only, saving, yet

Synonyms: Preposition

apart from, aside from, bar, barring, beside, besides, except (also excepting), except for, excluding, exclusive of, other than, outside, outside of, save, saving

Synonyms: Adverb

just, merely, only, purely, simply

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of but in a Sentence


We had no choice but to leave. They've done nothing but argue all afternoon.


There was no one there but him. I didn't tell anyone but my sister. Who but you would think that?


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, "With cannabis use growing, doctors still caution to keep kids away from secondhand smoke," 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, "Vikings: Sam Bradford growing with insights from Mike Zimmer," 15 June 2017 The tech firm didn’t pull that video down, but reached out to police. Queenie Wong, The Mercury News, "Facebook to add thousands of workers to review violent posts and other offensive content," 3 May 2017 But campus leaders like Chancellor Vincent Fulginiti and many community donors had a bigger vision. Matthew Wynia, The Denver Post, "Here’s why Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has a world-class art gallery," 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, "Rant: Is Raising Cane’s chicken really that good? Someone enlighten me, please.," 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, "O.C. swimmers blaze 12 records at Foothill Swim Games (VIDEO)," 22 Apr. 2017 But enough do to make a significant dent in the prescription numbers. Christopher Ingraham, The Cannabist, "Study: National medical marijuana laws would save lives — and a billion taxpayer dollars," 21 Apr. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition

Firefighters had no choice but to sit back and hope the fire wouldn't grow in the meantime. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Drones Are (Still) a Firefighter's Nightmare," 18 June 2018 The Trump team’s calculation appears to be that foreign countries have no choice but to trade with the world’s largest economy and will ultimately have to yield... Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Voters already fear economic pain from Trump's trade war," 9 July 2018 Yookongkaew also indicated rescuers might have no choice but to attempt a potentially dangerous extraction of the group, which may force the team and coach to strap on diving equipment despite most of them being unable to swim. Chris Irvine, Fox News, "Former navy SEAL assisting in cave rescue of Thai soccer team dead from lack of oxygen, authorities say," 7 July 2018 With Mexico falling 3-0 behind to Sweden in Ekaterinburg it was left with no choice but to hope that the Germans failed to win their game against South Korea, being played simultaneously in Kazan. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Defending champion Germany knocked out of World Cup while Mexico survives," 27 June 2018 But her father’s sudden death left Yani with no choice but to join the workforce to support her family after graduating high school. Lin Shih-tung, The Christian Science Monitor, "After dead-end jobs, promise of a future for migrant workers in Taiwan," 15 June 2018 With his money, passport and papers stolen, this stranded big-city boy has little choice but to stay put and wait to be rescued. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Volcano': Film Review | Karlovy Vary 2018," 13 July 2018 Nicky Lopez had little choice but to just keep his head down and grind. Blake Baumgartner, Naperville Sun, "In Nicky's time: Kansas City Royals prospect Nicky Lopez taking advantage of call-up to Class AAA," 7 July 2018 Illiterate women, often from society’s poorest segments, have little choice but to work. The Economist, "Culture and the labour market keep India’s women at home," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

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, "Defending Western & Southern champ Pliskova rolls past Wozniacki into semis," 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, "What Might Have Been," 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, "Argentine Journalist Claims Transfer-Shy Tottenham May Be Set to Land Genoa Striker," 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, "Some Kansas City residents still without power after three days," 25 July 2017 The Bilali Document is a reminder of a history all but forgotten. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Why Religious Freedom and Diversity Flourished in Early America," 15 July 2017 Also, his change-up, which was a big weapon against lefty hitters in 2016, has all but disappeared. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Midseason grades for Tigers starters: Michael Fulmer the only standout," 13 July 2017 Northwestern waited till the last second, literally, to all but clinch its first trip to the NCAA tournament when Dererk Pardon turned Nathan Taphorn’s full-court pass into the game-winning layup at the buzzer against Michigan on March 1. Paul Skrbina, chicagotribune.com, "Northwestern buzzer-beater a finalist for ‘Best Play’ at the ESPYs," 5 July 2017 In California, emissions testing even for off-road bikes has rendered two-strokes all but illegal. Nick Goddard, Popular Mechanics, "KTM's New Fuel-Injected Two-Strokes Could Save the Endangered Engine," 27 June 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Le meneur de jeu espagnol a marqué 10 buts et a offert 18 passes décisives cette saison. SI.com, "Barcelona Eyeing Shock Summer Move for Liverpool Flop Following Productive Season in Italy," 17 Apr. 2018 Weigh-in daily No ifs, ands, or buts, about it, get on the scale. Kimberly Garrison, Philly.com, "Three low-tech ways to lose 10 pounds before summer," 1 May 2018 Lee Corso said it without equivocation on Tuesday, without any ifs, ands or buts. Creg Stephenson, AL.com, "Lee Corso: Nick Saban is greatest college football coach of all time," 17 Apr. 2018 No ifs, ands or buts about it, the Pels must win both games. Jeff Duncan, NOLA.com, "Pelicans picked bad time to lay an egg with five games remaining," 2 Apr. 2018 And Mexico, no buts about it, Mexico will paaaay for the wall. Graham Lanktree, Newsweek, "Trump’s Child Crusaders," 13 Dec. 2017 If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books. Drew Harwell, Washington Post, "Florida lawmakers call for suspension of Broward sheriff after Parkland massacre as he defends ‘amazing leadership’," 25 Feb. 2018 Listen, ifs and buts and candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books. Anthony Man, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Don't rush to judge Sheriff Scott Israel Democrats say — day after Republicans call for his removal," 27 Feb. 2018 There are some people who're lucky enough to live in California or New Mexico and can laugh at the rest of us freezing our buts off. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "13 Can't-Miss Movie and TV Premieres Happening This Week," 7 Jan. 2018

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.

See More

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


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, out


see but entry 1


see but entry 1


see but entry 1


Scots but, adjective (outer)

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about but

Statistics for but

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for but

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for but

English Language Learners Definition of but

 (Entry 1 of 3)

—used to introduce a statement that adds something to a previous statement and usually contrasts with it in some way

: other than

—used in speech at the beginning of a sentence that expresses surprise, shock, etc.

English Language Learners Definition of but (Entry 2 of 3)

: other than (something or someone)



English Language Learners Definition of but (Entry 3 of 3)

: a reason someone gives for not doing or agreeing with something

\bət \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on but

What made you want to look up but? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express warning or disapproval

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!