1

only

adjective on·ly \ ˈōn-lē \

Definition of only

1 :unquestionably the best :peerless
  • is convinced that his team is the only one
2 a :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.

Examples of only in a Sentence

  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

Recent Examples of only from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of only

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

only Synonyms

Synonyms
incomparable, inimitable, matchless, nonpareil, peerless, unequaled (or unequalled), unexampled, unmatched, unparalleled, unrivaled (or unrivalled), unsurpassable, unsurpassed, out of sight
Related Words
alone, singular, unique; exceptional, extraordinary, rare, uncommon, unusual; A-OK, A1, awesome, bang-up, banner, beautiful, blue-chip, boffo, bonny (also bonnie) [chiefly British], boss [slang], brag, brave, bully, bumper, capital, choice, classic, cool [slang], corking, crackerjack, cracking, dandy, divine, dope [slang], down [slang], dynamite, excellent, fab, fabulous, famous, fantabulous [slang], fantastic, fine, first-class, first-rate, first-string, five-star, frontline, gangbusters (also gangbuster), gone [slang], grand, great, groovy, heavenly, high-class, hot, hype [slang], immense, jim-dandy, keen, lovely, marvelous (or marvellous), mean, neat, nifty, noble, number one (also No. 1), numero uno, out-of-sight [slang], par excellence, peachy, peachy keen, phat [slang], prime, primo [slang], prize, prizewinning, quality, radical [slang], righteous [slang], sensational, splendid, stellar, sterling, superb, superior, superlative, supernal, swell, terrific, tip-top, top, top-notch, wizard [chiefly British], wonderful; better, preferred; exceptional, fancy, high-grade, special
Near Antonyms
common, commonplace, everyday, familiar, frequent, garden, household, normal, ordinary, routine, ubiquitous, usual; inferior, lesser, worse, worst; bad, bastard, bush, bush-league, deficient, depressed, dissatisfactory, ill, inferior, lame, lousy, low, lower, off, paltry, poor, punk, substandard, unacceptable, unsatisfactory, wanting; low-grade, substandard; mediocre, second-class, second-rate; atrocious, awful, execrable, pathetic, rotten, terrible, vile, wretched

2

only

adverb

Definition of only

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

Placement of only in a Sentence

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

  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.

Recent Examples of only from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of only

see 1only


3

only

conjunction

Definition of only

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

Examples of only in a Sentence

  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

only Synonyms

Synonyms
but, except, saving, yet

ONLY Defined for English Language Learners

only

adjective

Definition of only for English Language Learners

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


only

adverb

Definition of only for English Language Learners

  • : no more than

  • : nothing other than

  • : excluding all others : nobody or nothing except


ONLY Defined for Kids

1

only

adjective on·ly \ ˈōn-lē \

Definition of only for Students

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.

2

only

adverb

Definition of only for Students

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.

3

only

conjunction

Definition of only for Students

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


Seen and Heard

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