Meaning of ONLY in English

adv., adj., & conj.


1. solely, merely, exclusively; and no one or nothing more besides (I only want to sit down; will only make matters worse; needed six only; is only a child).

2 no longer ago than (saw them only yesterday).

3 not until (arrives only on Tuesday).

4 with no better result than (hurried home only to find her gone).


In informal English only is usually placed between the subject and verb regardless of what it refers to (e.g. I only want to talk to you); in more formal English it is often placed more exactly, esp. to avoid ambiguity (e.g. I want to talk only to you). In speech, intonation usually serves to clarify the sense.


1. existing alone of its or their kind (their only son).

2 best or alone worth knowing (the only place to eat).

--conj. colloq.

1. except that; but for the fact that (I would go, only I feel ill).

2 but then (as an extra consideration) (he always makes promises, only he never keeps them).

Phrases and idioms:

only-begotten literary begotten as the only child. only too extremely (is only too willing).

Etymology: OE anlic, {aelig}nlic, ME onliche (as ONE, -LY(2))

Oxford English vocab.      Оксфордский английский словарь.