Meaning of ONLY in English

/ ˈəʊnli; NAmE ˈoʊnli/ adjective , adverb , conjunction

■ adjective [ only before noun ]


used to say that no other or others of the same group exist or are there :

She's their only daughter.

We were the only people there.

His only answer was a grunt.

Only five people turned up.


used to say that sb/sth is the best and you would not choose any other :

She's the only person for the job.


- the only thing is ...

—more at name noun , one determiner

■ adverb


nobody or nothing except :

There are only a limited number of tickets available.

The bar is for members only .

You only have to look at her to see she doesn't eat enough.

Only five people turned up.


in no other situation, place, etc. :

I agreed, but only because I was frightened.

Children are admitted only if accompanied by an adult.

HELP NOTE : In formal written English only , or only if and its clause, can be placed first in the sentence. In the second part of the sentence, be , do , have , etc. come before the subject and the main part of the verb:

Only in Paris do you find bars like this.

Only if these conditions are fulfilled can the application proceed to the next stage.


no more important, interesting, serious, etc. than :

It was only a suggestion.

Don't blame me, I'm only the messenger!

He was only teasing you.


no more than; no longer than :

She's only 21 and she runs her own business.

It only took a few seconds.

It took only a few seconds.


not until :

We only got here yesterday.

( formal )

Only then did she realize the stress he was under.

HELP NOTE : When only begins a sentence be , do , have , etc. come before the subject and the main part of the verb.


used to say that sb can do no more than what is mentioned, although this is probably not enough :

We can only guess what happened.

He could only watch helplessly as the car plunged into the ravine.

I only hope that she never finds out.


used to say that sth will have a bad effect :

If you do that, it will only make matters worse.

Trying to reason with him only enrages him even more.


only to do sth used to mention sth that happens immediately afterwards, especially sth that causes surprise, disappointment, etc. :

She turned up the driveway, only to find her way blocked.


- not only ... but (also) ...

- only just

- only too ...

- you're only young once

—more at eye noun , if conjunction

■ conjunction

( informal ) except that; but :

I'd love to come, only I have to work.

It tastes like chicken, only stronger.



Old English ānlic (adjective) (see one , -ly ).

Oxford Advanced Learner's English Dictionary.      Оксфордский английский словарь для изучающик язык на продвинутом уровне.