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Definition of “only” - English Dictionary

"only" in British English

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onlyadjective [before noun]

uk   /ˈəʊ  us   /ˈoʊ
A1 used to show that there is a ​single one or very few of something, or that there are no ​others: I was the only ​person on the ​train. Is this really the only way to do it? The only thing that ​matters is that the ​baby is ​healthy. It was the only thing I could do under the ​circumstances. Rita was the only ​person to ​complain.

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uk   /ˈəʊ  us   /ˈoʊ
  • only adverb (NOT MORE)

A1 used to show that something is ​limited to not more than, or is not anything other than, the ​people, things, ​amount, or ​activitystated: At ​present these ​televisions are only ​available in Japan. Only Sue and ​Markbothered to ​turn up for the ​meeting. This ​club is for ​members only. Only an ​idiot would do that. These ​shoes only ​cost $50. Don't ​worry - it's only a ​scratch. I was only ​joking. I was only ​trying to ​help. I only ​arrivedhalf an ​hour ago. She ​spoke to me only a few ​minutes ago on the ​phone. It's only four o'clock and it's already getting ​dark. "Who's there?" "It's only me (= it is not someone you should ​worry about). I've ​locked myself out." It's only natural that you should ​worry about ​yourchildren.

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only just
B1 used to refer to something that ​happensalmostimmediately after something ​else: People were ​leaving and I'd only just ​arrived. We'd only just set off when the ​carbroke down.
almost not: There was only just enough ​food to go round. We got there in ​time for ​ourflight, but only just (= but we ​almost did not).
not only ... (but) also
B2 used to say that two ​related things are ​true or ​happened, ​especially when this is ​surprising or ​shocking: Not only did he ​turn up late, he also ​forgot his ​books. If this ​projectfails, it will ​affect not only ​ourdepartment, but also the ​wholeorganization.
have only (got) to
If you say you have only (got) to do something, you ​mean that it is all you need to do in ​order to ​achieve something ​else: If you ​want any ​help, you have only to ​ask. You only have to ​look at her ​face to ​see that she's not well.
  • only adverb (BAD RESULT)

used when saying that something ​unpleasant will ​happen as a ​result of an ​action or a ​failure to ​act: If you don't do something about it now it will only get ​worse.
  • only adverb (FEEL SORRY)

used to show that you ​feelsorry about something that cannot ​happen when ​explaining why it cannot ​happen: I'd ​love to go to ​Australia. I only ​wish I could ​afford to.
I only hope/wish (that)
B2 used to ​emphasize what you are ​hoping or ​wishing for: I only ​hope you ​know what you're doing. I only ​wish that they would ​keep in ​touch more ​regularly.


uk   /ˈəʊ  us   /ˈoʊ
C2 used to show what is the ​single or ​mainreason why something ​mentioned in the first ​part of the ​sentence cannot be ​performed or is not ​completelytrue: I'd ​invite Frances to the ​party, only (= but I will not because) I don't ​want her ​husband to come. I'd ​call him myself, only (= but I cannot because) I'm at ​work all ​day. I'd be ​happy to do it for you, only (= but) don't ​expect it to be done before next ​week. This ​fabric is ​similar to ​wool, only (= except that it is)cheaper.

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(Definition of only from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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