on|ly1 W1S1 [ˈəunli US ˈoun-] adv
1.) not more than a particular number, age etc
Naomi was only 17 when she got married.
There are only a few cars on the island.
It's only eight o'clock.
2.) used to say that something or someone is not very important, serious etc
It was only a joke.
It's an interesting job, but it's only temporary.
They're only small cuts, nothing life-threatening.
3.) nothing or no one except a particular person or thing
Only the president can authorize a nuclear attack.
We use only the best ingredients.
women/men/residents etc only
The car park is for staff only.
4.) used to say that something happens or is possible in one particular situation or place and no others, or for one particular reason
I'll tell you, but only if you don't tell anyone else.
I ate the food, but only because I was starving.
The transfer takes place only when the data is complete.
5.) no earlier than a particular time
only yesterday/last week/recently
'When did you e-mail her?' 'Only yesterday.'
only then did/would/could etc sb do sth
(=at that moment and not before)
Only then did she tell him about the attack.
6.) only justBrE
a) a very short time ago ago
She's only just got up.
b) almost not
= ↑barely
I only just finished my essay in time.
7.) can only hope/wait etc
used to say that it is not possible to do more than hope etc
We can only hope it won't rain on the day.
8.) I can only think/suppose/assume (that)
spoken used when you are giving a reason for something, to say that you do not know something for certain but think that this is the only possible reason
I can only assume that it was a mistake.
9.) I only wish/hope
spoken used to express a strong wish or hope
'What's happening?' 'I only wish I knew.'
10.) if only
spoken used to express a strong wish
If only he'd call!
11.) you'll only
spoken used to tell someone that what they want to do will have a bad effect
Don't interfere - you'll only make things worse.
12.) you only have to read/look at/listen to etc sth
spoken used to say that it is easy to know that something is true because you can see or hear things that prove it
You only have to look at the statistics to see that things are getting worse.
13.) only to
used to say that someone did something, with a disappointing or surprising result
I arrived only to find that the others had already left.
14.) only too
Prices have risen sharply, as we know only too well.
Mark was only too happy to agree with her.
not only ... but (also) atnot, only have eyes for sb ateye1 (32), for sb's eyes only ateye1 (25)
only 2
only2 W1S1 adj [only before noun]
[: Old English; Origin: anlic, from an; ONE3]
1.) used to say that there is one person, thing, or group in a particular situation and no others
I was the only woman there.
He is our only child.
I was the only one who disagreed.
Cutting costs is the only solution.
She's the only person for this job.
2.) the only thing/problem is ...
spoken used when you are going to mention a problem or disadvantage
I could take you. The only thing is Dan might need the car.
3.) an only child
a child who has no brothers or sisters
the one and only atone4 (2), (only) time will tell attime1 (36)
only 3
only3 conj spoken
used like 'but' to give the reason why something is not possible
I'd offer to help, only I'm really busy just now.

Dictionary of contemporary English. 2013.


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