Main definitions of but in English

: but1but2



  • 1Used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned.

    ‘he stumbled but didn't fall’
    ‘this is one principle, but it is not the only one’
    ‘the food is cheap but delicious’
    ‘the problem is not that they are cutting down trees, but that they are doing it in a predatory way’
    • ‘It was deserted and I didn't see a soul, but I did stumble across a bunch of Red Deer in a meadow.’
    • ‘Once you have paid the entrance fee, you feel you deserve a cracking day out, it is not cheap but it is worth it.’
    • ‘I was quite happy being a mum, but I fell into it and it has just gone from there.’
    • ‘I believe leaving the bases will be a cheaper option but also help North Sea fish stocks.’
    • ‘We continued to talk all though the lesson, but there was no mention of the dance.’
    • ‘To develop a production facility in Ireland means a cheaper unit cost but do sales justify it?’
    • ‘I know that at least two other ladies have also had falls down there but not been as seriously injured.’
    • ‘Sure, most of the produce is much cheaper, but a lot of it isn't organically grown.’
    • ‘On the subject of value for money, Prestonfield may not be cheap, but it is not outlandish.’
    • ‘We can destroy with a cutting quip or a damning phrase but nobody expects us to create.’
    • ‘I'm sure this has been pointed out a million times already but I feel that I have to as well.’
    • ‘It was a scene which could have come out of a cheap thriller - but there was a difference.’
    • ‘I would have liked to have had a longer deal but the get out clauses were prohibitive.’
    • ‘He could lower prices to increase the audience, but income would fall dramatically.’
    • ‘This is fine in principle, but much depends on the more precise meaning given to the idea of abuse.’
    • ‘Now, everyone in the group knows about these things, but they are never mentioned.’
    • ‘In that Washington heat it seemed to take forever, but was still delicious an hour or so later.’
    • ‘It was a little different to what I would normally eat at home but it was delicious.’
    • ‘The riverside bar can not have been cheap to open, but the chain is more than reaping its reward now.’
    • ‘The parliament's visit to Aberdeen last week was not cheap, but it was money well spent.’
  • 2[with negative or in questions] Used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.

    ‘one cannot but sympathize’
    ‘there was nothing they could do but swallow their pride’
    ‘they had no alternative but to follow’
    • ‘Cause and effect are related in such a way that, if the first occurs, the second cannot but occur.’
    • ‘She knew he did not want to go, but she could still not help but feel anger at him.’
    • ‘This is another one of those Korean films that you cannot but have mixed feelings about.’
    • ‘What choice did the little fellow have but to respond positively to such instruction?’
    otherwise than, except
    View synonyms
  • 3Used to introduce a response expressing a feeling such as surprise or anger.

    ‘but that's an incredible saving!’
    ‘but why?’
    • ‘But, without the need for slaughterhouse nor butcher.’
    • ‘We did not know what to expect, but what a fantastic surprise night, it was a real thrill.’
    • ‘I was slow to acknowledge their response as I broke my leg, but thank you, one and all.’
    • ‘But I was trying to prove my point and the only way to do that was to speak French.’
    • ‘It is also very funny, but don't be surprised if you have to cross a protest line to see it.’
  • 4Used after an expression of apology for what one is about to say.

    ‘I'm sorry, but I can't pay you’
    • ‘Apologies for posting out of my normal TV category but it's simply too good not to post.’
    • ‘Apologies for getting poetic on you, but mornings like this make me think of this poem.’
    • ‘He told the woman that he was very sorry but he seemed to have left his wallet at home.’
    • ‘Apologies to Sylvia for swiping her quote, but it was such a good one I couldn't resist.’
    • ‘For that I can only apologise but it will be interesting to see who has missed the cut.’
    • ‘I am sorry to go on but I feel it is not fair that my hobby should be put at risk like this.’
    • ‘Please forgive me, but it is the only way I know of getting my point of view across.’
    • ‘Miss Gallafent, you have put it extremely well, but I am sorry to say I am against you.’
    • ‘Sorry, but this must be the most ridiculous piece of research we've ever heard of.’
    • ‘He came to me one day and said he was sorry, Madame, but he wanted to go and work for someone else.’
    • ‘I'm sorry, but she laughs in her sleep and can never remember the joke in the morning.’
    • ‘Terribly sorry, but we are not insured to give you a lift if you are not a prisoner anymore.’
    • ‘Sorry to say this but there are some areas where I don't trust the men in white coats.’
    • ‘Sorry to be repetitive but this guy was in the tube in Russell Square when the bomb went off!’
    • ‘Sorry to sound pious but what about the homeless, the sick, the poor and neglected?’
    • ‘I apologise but it's being moved to a new server and should be up again by Saturday.’
    • ‘Sorry but you would have to be completely bonkers to consider this method of control as humane!’
    • ‘Sorry Spurs but a point is all you are ever going to get from that game at Old Trafford.’
  • 5archaic [with negative] Without it being the case that.

    informal ‘it never rains but it pours’
    • ‘I did read the names that one time, and never but that one time.’
    • ‘It never rains but it pours.’
    • ‘Her Own Tribesmen Never but Say Her Age Is 300 Years.’


  • 1Except; apart from; other than.

    ‘we were never anything but poor’
    ‘supply currently exceeds demand in all but the most rural areas’
    ‘the last but one’
    • ‘Each notice said that the Board had no alternative but to cut back production and reduce costs.’
    • ‘She was shocked, too shock to do anything else but stare as he pulled her forward.’
    • ‘It's going to be a long road, but shinty has no alternative but to keep right on to the end.’
    • ‘On some London high streets it is becoming difficult to go food shopping anywhere but Tesco.’
    • ‘But in a calibration of this sort he has little alternative but to take it as he finds it.’
    • ‘Fair enough, help out people in the Highlands who have no alternative but to drive.’
    • ‘The sovereign commands the people in general ‘never but by a precedent law, and as a politic, not as a natural person’ .’
    • ‘In fact, I have no alternative but to fine her a crisp crunchie for being just too good to be true.’
    • ‘If we want vehicles to be less polluting, then we have no choice but to find an alternative fuel.’
    • ‘Aden was a year older than herself and she never saw him as anything else but her goofy nerd friend.’
    • ‘We have to be able to imagine what it is like to feel there is no alternative but to fight and die.’
    • ‘Last week a high court judge ruled that the brigade had no alternative but to give them their jobs back.’
    • ‘She also said that she would have no alternative but to contact my family if I didn't seek help.’
    • ‘In this event we will have no alternative but to look to you for recompense for all incurred costs.’
    • ‘So I didn't have any alternative then but to get up in front of everyone and attempt to play the thing.’
    • ‘She was too shaken and frightened to do anything else but feel safe in the arms of Peter Grayson.’
    apart from, other than, besides, aside from, with the exception of, short of, bar, barring, excepting, excluding, omitting, leaving out, saving
    outside of
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Used with repetition of certain words to give emphasis.
      ‘nobody, but nobody, was going to stop her’
      • ‘This is what I love about science: anybody but anybody can become involved at least in trying to understand what it is saying!’
      • ‘Why nobody, but nobody will ever take mass transit as long as they have a choice.’
      • ‘Nobody, but Nobody, knows Mauritius like we do!’
      • ‘Nobody, but nobody, should eat a two pound burrito.’
      • ‘Nobody, but nobody knows more about the wants and wishes of consumers of fresh agricultural products than the commodity groups that promote those products.’


  • 1No more than; only.

    ‘he is but a shadow of his former self’
    ‘choose from a colourful array of mango, starfruit, and raspberries, to name but a few’
    • ‘In an important article in April 22 Haaretz Gideon Levy points out but a few cases within the year illustrating that movement equals death.’
    • ‘I admire many artists like Gerhard Richter, Francis Bacon, and Edward Hopper to name but a few.’
    • ‘Fast food, the gas station (as we knew it until the 1980's), the neon sign, and the motel to name but a few, are the affectations of the early highways.’
    only, just, simply, merely, no more than, nothing but
    a mere
    View synonyms
  • 2Australian Scottish NZ informal (used at the end of a sentence) though; however.

    ‘he was a nice bloke but’


  • An argument against something; an objection.

    ‘no buts—just get out of here’
    ‘as with all these proposals, ifs and buts abound’
    • ‘We are not going to talk about ifs and buts, like I say, just wait for the procedure to take its place and then at the end of that, if no one has made the decision for us, we'll have to make the decision.’
    • ‘No ifs, no buts, no questions - they're sending me to Cambridge for the nine-month Masters program.’
    • ‘Sydney - no ifs, no buts - is the commercial capital of Australia.’
    • ‘No buts Christopher, she couldn't have gotten any of your possessions if you didn't give them to her yourself.’
    • ‘No buts, I've heard enough of those for today.’
    • ‘She brought her child into the world without any ifs and buts.’
    • ‘‘No buts,’ she cut me off, ‘Tomorrow you and I are going shopping!’’
    • ‘In the past 30 years, the food industry in Ireland, as represented by both the public and the private sectors, has created more ifs and buts than any other.’
    • ‘It allows one to put out misleading simplifications as long as the caveats, ifs and buts are buried somewhere in the detailed material.’
    • ‘It is a right - no ifs, no buts, and it doesn't matter who tried to take it away when.’
    • ‘When a great new revolutionary idea hits the public, there are always doubters, raising niggling ifs and buts.’
    • ‘Good days probably weren't on Lawler's mind as he sat out the dying minutes of the Westmeath game but for him the ifs and buts are always there.’
    • ‘His mother, Amy, who was washing the dishes, interrupted, ‘No buts.’’
    • ‘I'm going to go check out Jason, and then I'm going to check you out, no buts.’
    • ‘There were no mights, no ifs, no buts, no doubts, no qualifications.’
    • ‘‘No buts,’ she said with a shake of her head as she lowered her gaze from his.’
    • ‘No buts, no girls in this house while I am not home.’
    • ‘I will not accept any longer, ifs and buts from the council.’
    • ‘No excuses, no ifs and buts, enforcement is what we need.’
    • ‘Of all the ifs and buts, as far as I am concerned and as far as the players are concerned if we get three points on Saturday then everybody else can worry about each other.’


For advice about using but and other conjunctions to begin a sentence, see and


  • but for

    • 1Except for.

      ‘I walked along Broadway, deserted but for the occasional cab’
      • ‘There really is nothing behind his eyes but for a leaky roof dripping into a pale blue bucket.’
      • ‘The way down is a smooth diagonal, great for the legs, easygoing mile after mile, but for the stiles.’
      • ‘I'll never forget her pool in the winter - empty but for a fabulous ebony drum kit and a punch bag.’
      • ‘In the end, there's not much here but for the pulp entertainment value.’
      • ‘High pastures rise, bare but for a wedge of trees, and redshanks swooped in quickly to the rushes by our feet.’
      • ‘It’s All Good (but for the playing of the games).’
      • ‘Clint's daughter no longer speaks to him, leaving him empty but for his guilt.’
      1. 1.1If it were not for.
        ‘the game could be over but for you’
        • ‘How different would wages in advanced countries be if they were not - that is, how different would factor prices be but for the opportunities offered by the rise of the NIEs?’
        • ‘It would never have been made but for the influence of French duo Daft Punk.’
        • ‘The match itself could have been one of the greats but for the sour incidents that marred it.’
        • ‘For example, but for running the red light, the collision would not have occurred.’
        • ‘It would have been even better but for the last hole when he selected a seven iron over an easy six and pulled his approach.’
        • ‘Clapton would have snatched a draw but for another late goal from never-say-die Dorking.’
        • ‘But even this was something that should never have happened but for the fickle hand of fate.’
        • ‘Well I might subscribe to this line of reasoning but for three little letters.’
        • ‘He could have added to his test figures but for an apparent indiscretion with alcohol.’
        • ‘Our ancestors said we would not know the summer from the winter but for the leaves on their trees.’
        if it were not for, were it not for, except for, without, barring, notwithstanding
        View synonyms
  • but that

    • archaic Other than that; except that.

      ‘she would have screamed, but that her cry would have called her masters’
      • ‘There is no doubt but that Ireland has seen a surge in prices over the past five years.’
      • ‘Although there is little doubt but that all types of shrinkage, and certainly this type, have apparently always been a major area of concern for all types of concrete construction, I found out a long time ago that it is certainly true for concrete floors.’
      • ‘There can be little doubt but that the methods of projective differential geometry will serve to throw a flood of light upon the theory of conjugate triple systems.’
      • ‘There is no doubt but that both were on their best behaviour in this year's campaign.’
      • ‘He had no doubt but that this banking system was burdensome to the citizens of the United States.’
  • but then

    • After all; on the other hand (introducing a contrasting comment)

      ‘it couldn't help, but then again, it probably couldn't hurt’
      ‘it's a very hard match, but then they all are’
      • ‘But then, they would be, wouldn't they?’
      • ‘Most of the people I have spoken to since agree but then they don't live in homes with gardens big enough to warrant weekly collections of garden waste!’
      • ‘"But then they're bred for it, aren't they?" she adds as an afterthought.’


Old English be-ūtan, būtan, būta ‘outside, without, except’(see by, out).




Main definitions of but in English

: but1but2



  • An outer room, especially in a two-roomed cottage.

    • ‘The 'but' was the outer room or kitchen and the 'ben' was the inner room or best room.’


  • but and ben

    • A two-roomed cottage; a humble home.

      • ‘The denizens of Barclay House - that's our wee but and ben in Edinburgh - were given a pantomime for light relief yesterday morning when a parking attendant dared to stick a ticket on the Scotland bus.’
      • ‘He has not risen from his class, but is a miner, first, last and always, living in a "but-and-ben" stone-flagged cottage in the uplands of Lanarkshire.’
      • ‘To others it is a one-bedroom but and ben with a corrugated iron roof.’
      • ‘In the summer and autumn of 1757 Burnes began building a but and ben (two-roomed cottage) on the nursery land at Alloway.’
      • ‘This is a Scottish holiday very much as it would have been 50 years ago, when the Broons left their tenement in Glebe Street for a two-room but and ben in an anonymous glen.’


Early 18th century: from but in the early sense ‘outside’, specifically ‘into the outer part of a house’.