Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

only

1 adverb
     
on‧ly1 S1 W1
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 somebody do something (=at that moment and not before)
Only then did she tell him about the attack.
6

only just

British English
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 something

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

very:
Prices have risen sharply, as we know only too well.
Mark was only too happy to agree with her.

➔ not only ... but (also)

at not (4)

; ➔ only have eyes for somebody

at eye1 (32)

; ➔ for somebody's eyes only

at eye1 (25)

Dictionary pictures of the day
Do you know what each of these is called?
What is the word for picture 1? What is the word for picture 2? What is the word for picture 3? What is the word for picture 4?
Click on any of the pictures above to find out what it is called.

Explore our topic dictionary