only

adjective
on·​ly | \ ˈōn-lē How to pronounce only (audio) \

Definition of only

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : unquestionably the best : peerless is convinced that his team is the only one
2a : alone in a class or category : sole the only one left the only known species She's the only person you can really trust.
b : having no brother or sister an only child
3 : few one of the only areas not yet explored That was one of the only times I saw him cry.

only

adverb

Definition of only (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : 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
2 : at the very least it was only too true
3a : in the final outcome will only make you sick
b : with nevertheless the final result won the battles, only to lose the war
4a : 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

Definition of only (Entry 3 of 3)

1a : 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
2 : were it not that : except I'd introduce you to her, only you'd win her— Jack London

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Placement of Only in a Sentence: Usage Guide

Adverb

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 in a Sentence

Adjective

the only way to really appreciate the beauty of the forest is to walk through it that is the only possible right answer

Adverb

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

Conjunction

I'd love to sing along, only I don't know the words. They did have a radio, only it was broken. We wanted to buy that painting, only it was far too expensive.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Blood on the sand Oddly enough, Sonic isn’t the only one getting a full-scale overhaul based on early footage. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Razer is making a toaster, Sonic has human baby teeth," 3 May 2019 While Dumbledore is likely the only one who can defeat him, his pact with Grindelwald prevents him from being able to do so, causing him and Newt to come up with a way to break the pact to take him down. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Everything We Know About "Fantastic Beasts 3"," 29 Apr. 2019 The quartet combined for 72 of 77 points in the victory, with Javin DeLaurier and Goldwire the only other scorers for the Blue Devils. Pete Iacobelli, The Seattle Times, "Williamson, Duke survive UCF’s late misses, reach Sweet 16," 25 Mar. 2019 But diversity and exploration weren’t the only selling points of taking classes. Julia Sullivan, SELF, "How I Went From Hating Exercise to Becoming a Fitness Instructor in 5 Years," 3 May 2019 New York City saw its first and only patient with the deadly Ebola virus 4½ years ago. Melanie Grayce West, WSJ, "Bellevue Tests Its Preparedness for Ebola, Other Infectious Diseases," 30 Apr. 2019 Auburn-Carolina was the track meet everyone anticipated from the opening tip, the only difference that the Tar Heels preferred to go to the basket while the Tigers kept pulling up for 3s. Dave Skretta, The Seattle Times, "Hot-shooting Auburn upsets No. 1 North Carolina 97-80," 30 Mar. 2019 The only difference is the new palette also features a highlighter in addition to eye shadows. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "Tarte Just Launched Its Limited-Edition Icy Betch Eye & Cheek Palette," 28 Mar. 2019 The only difference is that these statements are usually leveled at women, not men. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Michael Jackson's Defenders Remind Us to Also Believe Men," 13 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Adding a large amount of instability to the mix is only going to slow you down. SELF, "How to Make Sure Instability Exercises Aren’t Working Against You," 17 May 2019 But renewed appreciation for Wright’s work over the last decade has led more and more visitors to seek out a chance to spend a night in one of his homes, an opportunity only available at a handful of properties. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "A Frank Lloyd Wright resort in Pennsylvania adds a new home," 3 May 2019 As the show grew in popularity and towards a spinoff, her price only went up probably. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "Ariana Grande's Net Worth Will Literally Blow Your Mind," 16 Apr. 2019 While fans might already be used to the 10 episodes a season format the show has followed for the past two seasons, season three will only have 8 episodes. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Everything We Know About "On My Block" Season 3," 30 Apr. 2019 The trailer doesn't give much away, only that our heroes are back and some new and familiar faces are returning. Adam Schubak, Popular Mechanics, "Everything We Know So Far About 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'," 12 Apr. 2019 Purdue’s only returning starter from last year’s game is Carsen Edwards, who scored 21 points that day and collected 42 points Saturday in an 87-61 second-round blowout of Villanova. Steve Megargee, The Seattle Times, "Barnes, Tennessee look for another signature win vs Purdue," 25 Mar. 2019 Restricting women’s choices will only make that statistic worse. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Georgia's Six-Week Abortion Ban Claims to "Value Life"," 4 Apr. 2019 Historically, only Windows 10 Pro users have been able to delay patches for a substantial length of time, leading to frustration on the part of Windows 10 Home users who lack the same Windows Update options. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft will ship the Windows 10 May 2019 Update in late May, giving you power over updates," 4 Apr. 2019

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

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First Known Use of only

Adjective

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

Adverb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Conjunction

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for only

Adjective and Adverb

Middle English, from Old English ānlīc, from ān one — more at one

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Learn More about only

Statistics for only

Last Updated

23 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for only

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

See more words from the same century

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More Definitions for only

only

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of only

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

only

adverb

English Language Learners Definition of only (Entry 2 of 2)

: no more than
: nothing other than
used for emphasis sometimes used in the phrase only just

only

adjective
on·​ly | \ ˈōn-lē How to pronounce only (audio) \

Kids Definition of only

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : alone in or of a class or kind : sole He is the only survivor.
2 : best without doubt You are the only person for me.

only

adverb

Kids Definition of only (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : no more than We lost only one game.
2 : no one or nothing other than Only you know my secret. There may be other methods, but only this will do.
3 : in no other situation, time, place, or condition except Use medicine only when necessary.
4 : in the end It will only make you sick.
5 : as recently as I saw him only last week.

Kids Definition of only (Entry 3 of 3)

: except that I'd like to play, only I'm too tired.

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More from Merriam-Webster on only

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with only

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for only

Spanish Central: Translation of only

Nglish: Translation of only for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of only for Arabic Speakers

Comments on only

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