Definition of button in US English:



  • 1A small disk or knob sewn on to a garment, either to fasten it by being pushed through a slit made for the purpose or for decoration.

    ‘a blouse with five buttons in front’
    as modifier ‘button thread’
    • ‘Holding the reins of his horse with one hand, Alexander used the other to fasten the top three buttons of his greatcoat.’
    • ‘Polo necks are sweaters with raised collars, usually adorned with two or three buttons on the frontal neckline.’
    • ‘These buttons help fasten the collar ends to the shirt.’
    • ‘It also features a two-button cuff with a button sleeve placket and wood grain Eagle logo buttons.’
    • ‘As a general rule, you should always fasten your top button, except if your suit features soft, rollover lapels.’
    • ‘It is buttoned down the front with five buttons, which also do up the men's way, and which are 10.5 cm apart, centre to centre.’
    • ‘It has a jacquard collar and cuff, a four-button clean-finished placket with woodtone buttons, and side vents.’
    • ‘I then unbuttoned my sleeve buttons to the blouse and let that drop to the floor.’
    • ‘The professional killers will be there, blood dripping from the hand that pulls the trigger, pushes the button or slits the throat.’
    • ‘Such skirts were made up of a pair of aprons that wrapped around the body and were attached to a wide cotton waistband that fastened with buttons or ties.’
    • ‘She bit off the excess thread of the last button being fastened and got up from under the table.’
    • ‘At this stage, they'll also check your garments for slits, broken buttons or zippers, and any other irregularities.’
    • ‘It has a three-button placket, pearl like buttons, full cut with extended tail and side vents.’
    • ‘She was wearing a chenille blouse, with tiny buttons down the front and a short black skirt.’
    • ‘He was wearing an aqua tunic that wrapped around and was fastened by a single button on his left shoulder.’
    • ‘Also be sure to get such notions as thread, zippers, buttons, and interfacing.’
    • ‘A schoolgirl from York has been suspended for repeatedly refusing to fasten the top button on her blouse.’
    • ‘It consisted of a green tailcoat with golden buttons and decorations, a white shirt and black trousers.’
    • ‘That means that the threads are snipped, minor repairs are done, buttons replaced, garments are odor-free.’
    • ‘He was pushing buttons on purpose, to figure out what would make him tick and what he would let roll off his back.’
    fastener, stud, link, toggle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A small round object resembling a button.
      ‘chocolate buttons’
      • ‘For those who prefer crunch with their creams, try the Peanut Butter Pretzel or Caramel Pretzel Buttons.’
      • ‘Danz has opened a tube of chocolate buttons from Danika.’
      • ‘Well, anyone who has had chocolate buttons will disagree.’
      • ‘These paperweight buttons will truly add a piece of art to anything that they go on.’
      • ‘No one can get close to our award winning house recipes in these organic chocolate buttons.’
    2. 1.2Fencing A knob fitted to the point of a foil to make it harmless.
      • ‘These days, the adherents of the point d'arrêt are few and far between, and non-electric weapons are generally fitted with foil-style buttons.’
      • ‘A second button costs $10 and lets the chime go of to a different sound than the other button - perfect to differentiate your own touch from your opponent's.’
      • ‘Notice the tip is rounded with a button mechanism and wires running down the grooves on the side of the blade.’
  • 2A knob on a piece of electrical or electronic equipment that is pressed to operate it.

    • ‘One climber stood by his tent, punching buttons on his cell phone.’
    • ‘Illuminated lift buttons will be at wheelchair height, and there will be handrails, tactile signs and vocal floor announcements.’
    • ‘The button was pushed, and the tray for the compact disc slid out of the player.’
    • ‘He also showed the audience the differences between the accordion and the melodeon the main one being the accordion has keys and the melodeon buttons for the notes.’
    • ‘The push of a button should reconnect power automatically when power is restored.’
    • ‘The activation of the launch button light confirmed target acquisition moments after his father reached his mother's side.’
    • ‘He pushed the green button in front of him and the mannequin started to move about the field.’
    • ‘Changing the current PC can be done through the keyboard or by pushing one of the buttons on the front panel.’
    • ‘I thumbed the button on my cell phone which bore the symbol of a green handset.’
    • ‘With practiced ease, she punched the right button in the maze of buttons, levers, switches, and dials.’
    • ‘At the push of a button the front latches release and the roof starts to break back.’
    • ‘He pushed a metal button on the door knob that locked it closed, and ran to the back of the room.’
    • ‘She pulled her phone out of her pocket and pushed a button.’
    • ‘She pushed the button and waited in front of one of the shiny gold colored doors.’
    • ‘The library's information page will probably have a button to click to access its electronic catalog.’
    • ‘She pushed the button and held it down for five seconds to be sure he would see it.’
    • ‘On one side sit record and volume buttons, and a control-lock switch.’
    • ‘Tapping a few buttons on his laptop he accessed the power control grid.’
    • ‘Push the button on the front edge and lift, the lid flips back and supports slide out, providing a stand for the phone.’
    • ‘It's important to remember that only the patient should push the button.’
    knob, switch, off switch, on switch, push switch, disc, lever, handle, key, control, controller
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 An element of a graphical user interface which a user can select to perform a particular action.
      ‘just search for the app you want and click the 'buy' or 'install' button’
      • ‘We're not opposed to touch, but sometimes it would be nice to have forward, back and a home screen button to press.’
      • ‘We recommend clicking on the full-screen button in the bottom right corner of the spreadsheet so you can see all the columns at once.’
      • ‘The left - and right - click buttons are both integrated into the touchpad surface.’
      • ‘Press the select button a second time to lock the icon in place.’
      • ‘Move your mouse to the extreme, lower left corner of the desktop until you see the Start screen button.’
      • ‘The menu options are well designed, and the simple left/right and select buttons work effectively.’
      • ‘Auto industry officials are expecting voluntary limits on the number of times a driver can push touchscreen buttons while a vehicle is moving.’
      • ‘You advance forward and backward by clicking buttons.’
  • 3North American A badge bearing a design or slogan and pinned to clothing.

    • ‘As it was spitting with rain that morning, I'd worn my Harrington jacket, but had taken the button badges off.’
    • ‘Campaign literature was developed, magnets printed and buttons shipped to Rockford in preparation for my return.’
    • ‘You can't see from here, but those badges and buttons sport a plethora of pro-life phrases.’
    • ‘Or whether there was someone out there more expert in illustration than I who might be able to turn it into some kind of logo or badge or button.’
    • ‘Staff members may not hold public office or wear campaign buttons or attend political rallies.’
    • ‘Union members are wearing buttons carrying the slogan, ‘I don't want to strike but I will.’’
    • ‘There's no block of seats reserved, no group rate, no free buttons, badges, bleepers or blunkers.’
    • ‘Most are adorned with slogan buttons, some of which are very old and rare.’
    • ‘Other workers have been asked to wear buttons and display banners in support.’
    • ‘The slogans on our buttons are actually funny, and many of them are about cats.’
    • ‘She then pinned to my shirt a button bearing a save-the-animals slogan whose precise wording I've forgotten.’
    • ‘I sat opposite a guy who I think was clearly too old to be wearing button badges.’
    • ‘We carry a complete line of top-quality, semi-automatic button machines that are able to produce professional-quality buttons at speeds of up to 5 buttons per minute!’
    pin, breastpin, brooch
    View synonyms


[with object]
  • 1Fasten (clothing) with buttons.

    ‘he buttoned up his jacket’
    • ‘I think glancing along rows of neatly zipped trousers and tightly buttoned shirts in the tube carriage.’
    • ‘Using assistive devices can make performing many daily activities - such as reading a book, opening a jar or buttoning a jacket - less frustrating.’
    • ‘‘I really hate my father,’ Trent muttered bitterly, buttoning his shirt.’
    • ‘‘For your information, I am in her bathroom,’ was the only reply he could think of as he started buttoning his shirt.’
    • ‘In your mid to late Twenties, you need to button the shirt.’
    • ‘‘Come to think of it, perhaps I will,’ he muttered, buttoning the black vest he had pulled on over a simple black linen shirt.’
    • ‘Now well about a year ago, to be perfectly truthful, I couldn't button my shirt.’
    • ‘In the end, great figures of the past will be judged by their contributions to history rather than by whether they buttoned their vest the wrong way or ate prunes for dinner.’
    • ‘Trembling, he stood, buttoning his shirt back up.’
    • ‘It was a cold November night in Hawolgok-dong and I buttoned my coat against a bitter wind announcing the onset of winter.’
    • ‘I am buttoning my skirt with fingers that are trembling, and my voice seems to be coming from a great distance.’
    • ‘I pulled up to my ex-house (Amanda won that easily) and parked in the lavish driveway, buttoning my jacket as I walked up, roses in one hand, keys in the other.’
    • ‘Reggie stopped buttoning his shirt and stood aghast: ‘That's extraordinary doctor, that's exactly how I feel!’’
    • ‘Ian buttons his coat in preparation for heading outside and lets his mind mull over today's schedule.’
    • ‘Emily jumped out of the car, buttoning her shirt.’
    • ‘He straps his sword to his waist while Annabelle buttons his coat.’
    • ‘After buttoning his coat, he gazed at his sister.’
    • ‘‘Now, let's fix you up and when you're ready we'll go back inside,’ I said buttoning his shirt and then fixing his tie.’
    • ‘Riddled with arthritis, diabetes and Parkinson's disease, he needs assistance with the simple tasks of daily living, such as getting in and out of bed, buttoning a shirt, or tying a shoelace.’
    • ‘Mike holds out his wrist, and Martina absently buttons his loose shirt cuff.’
    1. 1.1button someone into Fasten the buttons of a garment being worn by (someone)
      ‘he buttoned himself into the raincoat’
      • ‘They are made from a soft, washed poly cotton material and include two front pockets, epaulets, for that military look, and an inside sleeve strap so you can roll your sleeves up and button them into place.’
      • ‘She lay one across the back of the chair and began buttoning Wilhelm into the other as though he were a doll.’
      • ‘‘They worked so hard to get me the costumes that we wear and they're all vintage,’ she says of her long skirts and tight corsets. "They went to three different cities and all of the old costume houses, and it took 45 minutes to button me into those clothes."’
      • ‘He would button me into his breast pocket and pet me for luck.’
      • ‘It had huge puffy sleeves with three button cuffs with ruffles and pearl buttons down the back, Cindy had to button me into it.’
      • ‘‘I also want to have a few trick ponies, for a circus exhibition,’ she said then allowed her maid to button her into a sleeveless gown of rich, iridescent black with falls of midnight lace and rows of glittering, jet beads.’
      • ‘why should maturation button me into a cacophonous cocoon to shed my skin for a straight jacket of perfectly pressed blacks and papery-starched whites?’
      • ‘He sits on a desk in the corner of my lounge, waiting for me to push button him into life.’
      • ‘It reminds me of one wife who, on wet days, made her husband take a ruffled apricot ladies’ umbrella to work, or, if special punishment was required, wear a ladies’ rubber mackintosh as well, which she would button him into.’
      • ‘Why don't they put tabs on top of comforters so you can button them into the closure of your duvet cover so the comforter stays in place inside the cover?’
      • ‘‘I can't wait,’ I sighed dramatically, letting Susie button me into my coat as Meredith clocked out.’
    2. 1.2no object (of a garment) be fastened with buttons.
      ‘a dress that buttons down the front’
      • ‘The dark navy plaid skirt came down a little below mid-thigh and the short sleeve shirt buttoned down the front.’
      • ‘I wore a slinky green skirt that buttoned over the front.’
      • ‘The plaid skirt seem to come up to her breasts and her shirt buttoned down and was supposed to be tucked into her skirt but she left it out.’
      • ‘The kind you wear casually, with big pockets that button on the front.’
      • ‘A full length tent denim dress that buttons down the front.’
      • ‘She was wearing a long floral print dress that buttoned all down the front of her.’
      • ‘Lehrer also has special pre-performance warm-up clothes: a red cotton jumpsuit that buttons up the front.’
      • ‘I was already dressed in a large t-shirt and jeans that didn't fully button in the front.’
      • ‘It was a light blue dress that buttoned all the way up, a pink belt around her waist and brown boots.’
      • ‘She wore a white linen chambray shirt that buttoned in the front with pearl buttons.’
    3. 1.3button itinformal often in imperative Stop talking.
      • ‘Colin Todd has warned his City players to button it.’
      • ‘If they manage to persuade the likes of White and Laporte to keep it buttoned, it will be one of the miracles of the age.’
      • ‘Put them in blazers, then tell them to button it.’
      be quiet, keep quiet, stay quiet, be silent, keep silent, stay silent, hold one's tongue, keep one's lips sealed
      View synonyms


  • button one's lip

    • informal Stop or refrain from talking.

      • ‘But they do like and respect him, and I can't imagine them agreeing that as a former Governor General he should button his lip.’
      • ‘Know when to button your lip and let others talk.’
      • ‘I'd told her this was payback for keeping me in the dark about the visit of Lorne, Bryan, and Co. on my birthday, and buttoned my lip.’
      • ‘I am talking here, Abra, so I would kindly appreciate it if you would button your lip.’
      • ‘The nation's professional churl had finally been forced to button his lip.’
      be quiet, keep quiet, stay quiet, be silent, keep silent, stay silent, hold one's tongue, keep one's lips sealed
      View synonyms
  • on the button

    • 1informal Punctually.

      ‘it was nearly visiting hours and she would arrive on the button’
      • ‘From All Cannings Bridge, I was picked up on the button by a Wigglybus, a pleasing local speciality: it wiggles away from its scheduled route by appointment made on the phone.’
      • ‘Twenty past six, on the button, there came a great PERLOMPH!’
      • ‘On another day trip, we heeded the lure of Cordoba, spirited there by a train that left on the button and arrived on the nail.’
      • ‘I was pleased when I was there to see everyone get in on time and lessons started right on the button.’
      • ‘After all the deliberation about timing, I'm right on the button!’
      punctually, on time, on the dot, on the nail
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1Exactly right.
        ‘his prediction was right on the button in terms of actual rainfall’
        • ‘The Nixon comparison however, seems right on the button.’
        • ‘I believe the sentiment expressed was absolutely on the button.’
        • ‘He would advise property developers on how to get funding and seemed to be quite on the button, quite switched on.’
        • ‘The Lingard and Neil Law three-quarter partnership is not yet on the button but it was spot-on when the latter put the former in for his second.’
        • ‘The lady is on the button when she suggests that leaders and educators must be ‘visionaries’.’
        • ‘I guessed it was only a matter of time, but you're right on the button.’
        • ‘The team we've selected is a strong one and we need to get our individual performances on the button.’
        • ‘I hope I have gone some way towards explaining the importance of local authority self examination of costs, performance and efficiency and that you might agree that we, in Craven, are right on the button.’
        • ‘Diva may be an overused word, but it's bang on the button here.’
        • ‘He says, ‘I have a feeling that when they print something, it's right on the button.’’
        precisely, exactly, right, directly, immediately, squarely, just, dead
        View synonyms
  • press the button

    • informal Initiate an action or train of events, especially nuclear war.

      • ‘What happens after a chief executive presses the button to start trading at Nasdaq, has his faced flashed above Times Square and does a half-dozen interviews?’
      • ‘If in 1974 Nixon had pressed the button then there would have been a nuclear holocaust.’
      • ‘As the 11-2 chance cruised up to the leaders in the straight, he sat as still as a mouse and it was not until the final furlong that he began to press the button.’
      • ‘I have the latest volume on my wish list but I rather suspect I'll be pressing the button and buying it myself next pay-day.’
      • ‘For these two reasons, mobilization was almost equivalent to pressing the button in the age of the nuclear deterrent, or to reaching for the personal deterrent in the age of the cowboy.’
      • ‘About 12.45, I press the button on 26 years of trying to help the Party.’
      • ‘They don't have to deal with, argue about, or work within the realities of the conflict - they can just turn up, find their target, and press the button.’
      • ‘The first was to launch military action immediately against Yugoslavia; the other was to talk: and no one was yet ready to press the button.’
      • ‘It is awaiting the passage of a bill through parliament to allow it to press the button on the first phase of the £714m project.’
      • ‘It's that old familiar ‘life on hold’ stage of the game, when there are no projects under way, everything is waiting to be packed when the solicitor presses the button and in the meantime all we can do is sit quietly, not make a mess, and wait.’
  • push (or press) someone's buttons

    • informal Arouse or provoke a reaction in someone.

      ‘stay cool and don't allow them to push your buttons’
      • ‘The next time somebody tries to push your buttons, remember what Mom said and resist reacting.’
      • ‘No matter what pushes your buttons, one thing is certain: Feeling jealous is totally human.’
      • ‘Let him tap into your brain, and he will feed off it, and keep right on pushing your buttons.’
      • ‘So he was pushing your buttons, but you were also pushing his buttons.’
      • ‘My wife, rational in most other things, adamantly refused to admit that her beautiful baby son would stoop to pushing her buttons.’
      • ‘I'm reading it more critically than I did a few years ago, but there's still some great stuff in there that pushes my buttons pretty hard.’
      • ‘Remember, June also knew how to push Ward 's buttons.’
      • ‘Is this woman serious, or just pushing our buttons?’
      • ‘Avoid pushing his buttons, and ask your parents to get a lock for your door since the thing to do when someone is unreasonably angry is to get out of harm's way.’
      • ‘I remember the great tenderness with which my father taught me initially, but then it was replaced by a harsh regimented style where he started pushing my buttons but that happened later.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • button something up

    • 1Complete or conclude something satisfactorily.

      ‘trying to button up a deal’
      • ‘Once they do move that rotating structure away, it basically means the shuttle is buttoned up and ready to go, but as Kyra mentioned, NASA certainly keeping an eye on that faulty fuel sensor.’
      • ‘Keith Oppenheim is standing by in a city that is buttoned up and ready for the worst.’
      • ‘It's good that you can leave it with this note to it, sort of button it up with the fact that the re-election went the way it did.’
      • ‘That sounds like there's some logic, you can button it up, if it comes down to simply extortion for money.’
      • ‘I want to move on to another issue, but I want to button it up with this then.’
      • ‘Larry, in a circumstantial evidence case, a prosecutor has to just have things buttoned up and tight.’
      • ‘Even as we speak the Upland skatepark is being buttoned up.’
      • ‘It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family.’
      • ‘And just to button this final thought up, what evidence do we have that this is moving voters one way or another?’
      • ‘Pocklington appear to have completely buttoned up the league title by opening up a seven points gap over second-placed Cleckheaton.’
    • 2Repress or contain something.

      ‘it was repressive enough to keep public opinion buttoned up’
      • ‘His entire being got buttoned up with anger, despair and humiliation.’
      • ‘Most of the men in my plays are buttoned up but the women can let rip and shout the house down.’
      • ‘I don't know who decided, at whatever stage, that being buttoned up and possessed of a stiff upper lip was a bad thing and that Englishmen had better loosen up.’
      • ‘In private, Sir David is much less buttoned up than he seems in public, his reputation for arrogance and pomposity unduly harsh.’
      • ‘Any white person expressing such ideas is obviously a buttoned up racist, ill at ease with the realities of multicultural Britain and its vibrant black youth culture.’
      • ‘Middle-class cinemas, by contrast, were far more buttoned up.’
      • ‘Workers may have been getting hot under the collar in the recent heatwave, but most Manchester bosses want to keep them firmly buttoned up.’
      • ‘Perhaps it is because they are all buttoned up, just quite content to take a six figure salary without making any meaningful contribution, is that what we want?’
      • ‘Rivers, for his part, is every bit as self-conscious as Prior, but his sensuality remains buttoned up.’
      • ‘We English are frightfully good at keeping our feelings buttoned up.’


Middle English: from Old French bouton, of Germanic origin and related to butt.