Meaning of ONLY in English


1. only one, or only a small number

2. a surprisingly small price/number/amount.

3. for one reason only and no other

4. not particularly important, special, or interesting

5. belonging or relating to only one thing, person, or group


see also




1. only one, or only a small number

▷ only /ˈəʊnli/ [adjective/adverb]

only one person or thing, or only a small number of people or things, and not anyone or anything else :

▪ There was only one dress that she really liked.

▪ Only rich people were able to travel abroad in those days.

▪ You can only take one piece of hand baggage onto the plane.

▪ You get only two chances - if you fail the exam twice you can’t take it again.

the only person/thing/place etc

▪ She’s the only woman I’ve ever loved.

be only for somebody

only one person or group can use something

▪ These seats are only for first class passengers.

▷ just /dʒʌst/ [adverb] especially spoken

only one person, thing, type, or group, or only a small number of them, especially when this is surprising :

▪ ‘Were there a lot of people there?’ ‘No, just me and David.’

▪ He started his own small shop - at first just selling newspapers, then books and magazines.

▪ ‘Does everyone have to wear uniform?’ ‘No, just the first year students.’

▷ all /ɔːl/ [pronoun]

the only thing or things, especially when this is disappointing, annoying, or surprising :

▪ All Kevin ever talks about is football.

▪ We were really hungry, but all we could find was some stale bread.

▪ All I wanted was a bit of sympathy.

▷ nothing but /ˈnʌθɪŋ bət/

use this especially when you feel disappointed, annoyed, or surprised that something is the only thing there is or the only thing someone does :

▪ There was nothing but salad to eat.

▪ They did nothing but argue for the whole journey.

▷ one /wʌn/ [determiner]

one thing/person/time/problem etc

the only person, thing etc and no others - use this to emphasize that there really is only one person or thing of this type :

the one thing/person/time/problem etc

▪ She was the one friend that I could trust.

▪ The one thing I don’t like about my car is the colour.

▪ The one time I forgot my umbrella was the day it rained.

somebody’s one regret/friend/mistake etc

▪ My one regret is that I never told Brad how I felt.

▷ lone /ləʊn/ [adjective only before noun]

being the only one, when usually you would expect there to be more - used in newspapers and literature :

▪ A lone gunman burst into his house and shot him dead.

▪ Out of the stillness, a lone bird began to sing.

▷ solitary /ˈsɒlɪt ə ri, ˈsɒlət ə riǁˈsɑːlə̇teri/ [adjective only before noun]

a solitary person, tree, building etc is the only one you can see in a place, and may therefore seem a little lonely or sad :

▪ A solitary light shone in the street.

▪ There was one solitary hotel left standing after the earthquake.

▪ I could see a solitary figure outlined against the horizon.

▷ sole /səʊl/ [adjective only before noun] formal

the only person, thing etc, especially when you would expect there to be more or expect it to be different :

▪ Everyone ignored my sole contribution to the conversation.

the sole person/thing etc

▪ In many households, the woman is the sole breadwinner the only person who has a job .

with the sole intention/objective/aim of doing something

▪ I think he came here with the sole intention of causing trouble.

somebody’s sole concern/objective etc

▪ NASA’s sole concern was the safety of the astronauts.

▷ exclusively /ɪkˈskluːsɪvli/ [adverb]

made of, including, or involving only one thing or group, especially something special or something that is of good quality :

▪ This shop sells clothes made exclusively of Indian materials.

▪ The office staff are almost exclusively female.

2. a surprisingly small price/number/amount.

▷ only /ˈəʊnli/ [adverb]

use this to say that a number, amount, price, size etc is surprisingly small :

▪ I got these four chairs for only $99.

▪ We only have a very small garden.

▪ ‘Is it far?’ ‘No, it’s only a mile away.’

▪ She was only 17 when she got married.

▷ just /dʒʌst/ [adverb]

only a small amount, number, period of time etc, especially when this is surprising and good :

▪ There is a beautiful park just 300 metres from the busiest shopping street.

▪ It took the firefighters just three minutes to arrive.

▪ His car hit a wall, but he escaped with just cuts and bruises.

just a little also just a bit

British spoken only a small amount, number etc

▪ ‘Do you take milk?’ ‘Just a little, please.’

▷ is that all? /ɪz ˌðæt ˈɔːl/ spoken

say this when you are surprised because you expected a number, price etc to be higher :

▪ ‘The tickets are $10.’ ‘Is that all?’

▪ Is that all the money you’ve got?

▷ a mere /ə ˈmɪəʳ/ [adverb]

use this to talk about something that is only a small amount or figure, or is lower than you would expect :

a mere £50/three days/16% etc

▪ You can now buy computers from a mere £300.

▪ The crossword took him a mere six and a half minutes.

▷ no more than /nəʊ ˈmɔːʳ ð ə n/

use this to emphasize that something is small, unimportant, difficult to notice etc :

▪ We were standing no more than 10 yards away from the scene of the crime and we didn’t realize it.

▪ David watched the car drive slowly away, until it was no more than a speck in the distance.

3. for one reason only and no other

▷ only /ˈəʊnli/ [adverb]

for only one reason or purpose, and not for any others - use this especially when explaining why someone does something :

▪ She only married him for his money.

▪ Ms Walker said she only started stealing because her children were hungry.

▷ just /dʒʌst/ [adverb] especially spoken

only - use this when explaining why someone does something :

▪ I think she just wanted someone to talk to.

▪ I didn’t mean to interfere - I was just trying to help.

just because

▪ Just because he looked at them in the wrong way, they beat him up and stole his money.

▷ merely /ˈmɪəʳli/ [adverb] formal

use this to emphasize that you are doing something only for the reason you say, and not for any other reason, especially when someone seems annoyed or upset :

▪ The committee does not blame any individual; we are merely trying to find out how the accident happened.

▪ You are not there to teach, but merely to supervise the children.

▷ purely /ˈpjʊəʳli/ [adverb]

for one reason or purpose only, and not involving anything else :

▪ What we have is a purely business arrangement.

▪ Most plants are planted purely for decoration.

4. not particularly important, special, or interesting

▷ only/just /ˈəʊnli, dʒʌst/ [adverb]

use this to emphasize that someone or something is not particularly important, special, or interesting :

▪ Don’t ask me - I’m only the cleaner.

▪ ‘What’s for dinner?’ ‘Just pasta - nothing exciting.’

only/just another

▪ It’s just another one of those daytime talk shows.

▷ merely /ˈmɪəʳli/ [adverb] formal

use this to emphasize that someone or something is not really important or special, although they may seem to be :

▪ The President’s position is merely ceremonial; it is the Chancellor who holds real power.

▪ I wondered if the girl had meant more to him than being merely a casual friend.

▷ nothing else /ˌnʌθɪŋ ˈels/ [pronoun]

only that, and not anything more important, more valuable, or more useful :

▪ She sees him as a friend and nothing else.

if nothing else

▪ If nothing else the meeting serves as a useful way of getting everyone’s ideas together.

▷ mere /mɪəʳ/ [adjective only before noun]

only - used especially when you do not expect very much from the thing you are describing, or you think it is unimportant :

▪ How can you expect him to understand? He’s a mere child.

▪ There have been reports that she is going to resign, but it’s mere speculation at the moment.

▪ The mere mention of Ronan’s name made her heart beat faster.

▷ nothing but/no more than /ˈnʌθɪŋ bʌt, nəʊ ˈmɔːʳ ð ə n/

use this about someone or something that is not nearly as good, special, interesting etc as they seem to be or pretend to be :

▪ They say they’re a moral, religious regime, but in fact they’re nothing but a bunch of bullies and thugs.

▪ As far as I can see, this proposal is no more than an attempt to disguise many of the mistakes management have made in the past.

5. belonging or relating to only one thing, person, or group

▷ only /ˈəʊnli/ [adverb]

▪ The bee orchid is a rare plant normally only found in Mediterranean climates.

women/men/ staff etc only

▪ Women only swimming sessions are held every Thursday.

only for

▪ High impact aerobics is only for people who are extremely fit.

▷ just /dʒʌst/ [adverb]

only affecting a particular group, place, time etc :

▪ It is a disease which affects just male children.

▪ Sam Mendes is highly regarded, not just in the UK.

just for

▪ This class is just for beginners. Why don’t you try the class next door?

▷ be limited/restricted to /biː ˈlɪmə̇tə̇d, rɪˈstrɪktə̇d tuː/ [verb phrase]

if something is limited to or is restricted to someone or something, it has been officially decided that only particular groups can do it or use it, or that it can only happen in particular places or situations :

▪ Access to the files is limited to management.

▪ The cultivation of rice has to be restricted to areas of high rainfall.

▷ be confined to /biː kənˈfaɪnd tu/ [verb phrase]

to affect or happen to only one group of people, or in only one place or time :

▪ So far, fighting has been confined to the capital city.

▪ ME or "Yuppie Flu', is not just confined to people in high-powered, well-paid jobs.

▷ be unique to /biː juːˈniːk tu/ [verb phrase]

if an unusual or rare quality or characteristic is unique to a particular thing, person, place etc, only that thing, person, or place has it :

▪ This type of tapestry work is unique to the region.

▪ Each set of genes is unique to the individual.

uniquely [adverb]

▪ There’s something uniquely English about the scene.

▷ be peculiar to /biː pɪˈkjuːliəʳ tuː/ [verb phrase]

to belong very definitely to one particular person, place, period of time etc and not to any other :

▪ This way of grinding corn is peculiar to North American Indians.

▪ a gesture peculiar to himself

peculiarly [adverb]

▪ a peculiarly South African phenomenon it is only found in South Africa

▷ exclusive /ɪkˈskluːsɪv/ [adjective only before noun]

use this to describe something that only particular people have the advantage of having, doing, or using :

▪ There will be exclusive coverage of the championship on Channel 5.

▪ The recent takeover gave Rafferty exclusive control of the company.

▪ Your password gives you exclusive access to your personal computer files.

exclusively [adverb]

▪ Certain areas of the club are reserved exclusively for members.

Longman Activator English vocab.      Английский словарь Longman активатор .