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

Fergie isn't the only royal one speaking out on International Women's Day. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sarah Ferguson Pays Tribute to Princess Diana on International Women's Day," 8 Mar. 2019 In fact, experts say a tummy tuck may be the only way to get rid of loose, sagging skin. Erin Nicole Celletti And Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "Considering a Tummy Tuck? Here's What to Expect From Abdominoplasty," 7 Mar. 2019 If that was the only way to verify your identity (i.e., no password), then yes, conceivably. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "WebAuthn: What you need to know about the future of the passwordless Web," 7 Mar. 2019 The former Pussycat Dolls member wasn't the only one who thought the winged critter—who turned out to be music legend Gladys Knight—was snubbed. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "‘The Masked Singer’ Fans Are Furious That Gladys Knight Was 'Robbed' in the Finale," 1 Mar. 2019 Guests in The Zelda Suite also get a complimentary tour of the museum, of course. The F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum is the only one in the world dedicated to the lives and legacies of the couple, according to its website. Maya Mcdowell, House Beautiful, "Literary Fans Rejoice! You Can Rent A Suite In F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Former Home on Airbnb," 21 Feb. 2019 The only other prominent player left from this saga is Kaplan. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "Who does Facebook fire after a bombshell New York Times investigation?," 15 Nov. 2018 That's why the only way to keep the March blues at bay is to binge Netflix in bed. Alison Caporimo, Seventeen, "Here’s What’s Coming to/Leaving Netflix in March 2019," 20 Feb. 2019 The Kilpatrick eliminates a tool and a step while improving upon the only bar strainer on the market. Elle Decor Editors, ELLE Decor, "This Product Will Revolutionize The Art of Cocktail Mixing," 20 Feb. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Unlike some of their other drinks that have been released recently, the Cloud Macchiato is a permanent addition to their menu, so fans don't have to worry about only having a limited time to go try it out. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Ariana Grande Just Dropped a Starbucks Drink and Coffee-Lovers are Obsessed," 5 Mar. 2019 During this time, fans only had unwavering loyalty for their Queen of Tea, never failing to show their support and love while Wendy experienced one health concern after another. Selena Barrientos, Good Housekeeping, "Here's the Tea About Wendy Williams' Return to 'The Wendy Williams Show'," 4 Mar. 2019 Average flows were unavailable for nine sites that only had high and low estimates of how much polluted water flowed out. Matthew Brown, The Seattle Times, "50M gallons of polluted water pours daily from US mine sites," 20 Feb. 2019 He and his team not only allowed Epstein to avoid a long prison sentence but also worked with Epstein’s lawyers to make sure the case was kept as quiet as possible. Jane Coaston, Vox, "Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who is friends with Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, explained," 22 Feb. 2019 This year's Entertainer of the Year category, one of the most esteemed awards, featured only male country singers. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "Reba McEntire Says She's Not 'Very Happy' With the Controversial ACM Nominations," 21 Feb. 2019 Anderson is a consultant for Soho House, a members-only club with locations all over the world from New York and London to Toronto, Istanbul, and Mumbai. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "5 Things to Know About Markus Anderson, Meghan Markle's Close Friend," 20 Feb. 2019 Anderson is known for his work with SoHo House, an elite, members-only club with luxe locations around the world. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Who's Attending Meghan Markle's Baby Shower in NYC?," 19 Feb. 2019 Consumer demand will only increase as cheaper access terminals hit the market. Popular Mechanics, "The Death of the Internet," 7 Feb. 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

14 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for only

The first known use of only was before the 12th 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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