but for

but

1 [buht; unstressed buht]
conjunction
1.
on the contrary; yet: My brother went, but I did not.
2.
except; save: She was so overcome with grief she could do nothing but weep.
3.
unless; if not; except that (followed by a clause, often with that expressed): Nothing would do but that I should come in.
4.
without the circumstance that: It never rains but it pours.
5.
otherwise than: There is no hope but by prayer.
6.
that (used especially after doubt, deny, etc., with a negative): I don't doubt but he will do it.
7.
who not; that not: No leaders worthy of the name ever existed but they were optimists.
8.
(used as an intensifier to introduce an exclamatory expression): But she's beautiful!
9.
Informal. than: It no sooner started raining but it stopped.
preposition
10.
with the exception of; except; save: No one replied but me.
adverb
11.
only; just: There is but one God.
noun
12.
buts, reservations or objections: You'll do as you're told, no buts about it.
Idioms
13.
but for, except for; were it not for: But for the excessive humidity, it might have been a pleasant day.
14.
but what. what ( def 24 ).

Origin:
before 900; Middle English buten, Old English būtan for phrase be ūtan on the outside, without. See by, out


1. But, however, nevertheless, still, yet are words implying opposition (with a possible concession). But marks an opposition or contrast, though in a casual way: We are going, but we shall return. However indicates a less marked opposition, but displays a second consideration to be compared with the first: We are going; however (“notice this also” ), we shall return. Nevertheless implies a concession, something which should not be forgotten in making a summing up: We are going; nevertheless (“do not forget that” ), we shall return. Still implies that in spite of a preceding concession, something must be considered as possible or even inevitable: We have to go on foot; still (“it is probable and possible that” ), we'll get there. Yet implies that in spite of a preceding concession, there is still a chance for a different outcome: We are going; yet (“in spite of all, some day” ), we shall return. 2. See except1.


1. But, like and, is a common transitional word and often begins sentences. When it is used in the middle of a sentence as a coordinating conjunction like and or so, it is not followed by a comma unless the comma is one of a pair setting off a parenthetical expression: His political affiliations make no difference, but his lack of ethics does. The cast is nearly complete, but, our efforts notwithstanding, we lack a star. See also and, so1.
2, 10. When but is understood as a conjunction and the pronoun following it is understood as the subject of an incompletely expressed clause, the pronoun is in the subjective case: Everyone lost faith in the plan but she (did not lose faith). In virtually identical contexts, when but is understood as a preposition, the pronoun following it is in the objective case: Everyone lost faith but her. The prepositional use is more common. However, when prepositional but and its following pronoun occur near the beginning of a sentence, the subjective case often appears: Everyone but she lost faith in the plan. See also doubt, than.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
but1 (bʌt, (unstressed) bət)
 
conj
1.  contrary to expectation: he cut his knee but didn't cry
2.  in contrast; on the contrary: I like opera but my husband doesn't
3.  (usually used after a negative) other than: we can't do anything but wait
 
conj
4.  (usually used after a negative) without it happening or being the case that: we never go out but it rains
5.  (foll by that) except that: nothing is impossible but that we live forever
6.  archaic if not; unless
 
sentence connector
7.  informal used to introduce an exclamation: my, but you're nice
 
prep
8.  except; save: they saved all but one of the pigs
9.  but for were it not for: but for you, we couldn't have managed
 
adv
10.  just; merely; only: he was but a child; I can but try
11.  informal (Scot), (Austral), (NZ) though; however: it's a rainy day: warm, but
12.  all but almost; practically: he was all but dead when we found him
 
n
13.  an objection (esp in the phrase ifs and buts)
 
[Old English būtan without, outside, except, from beby + ūtanout; related to Old Saxon biūtan, Old High German biūzan]

but2 (bʌt)
 
n
1.  the outer room of a two-roomed cottage: usually the kitchen
 
prep, —adv
2.  Compare ben in or into the outer part (of a house)
 
[C18: from but (adv) outside, hence, outer room; see but1]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

but
O.E. butan, buton "unless, except; without, outside," from W.Gmc. *be- "by" (see by) + *utana "out, outside; from without," from ut "out" (see out). Not used as a conjunction in O.E.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

but for

Except for, were it not for. For example, But for the afternoon shower, it was a perfect day, or But for the children, they would have gotten a divorce long ago. [c. 1200]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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