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[buht-n] /ˈbʌt n/
a small disk, knob, or the like for sewing or otherwise attaching to an article, as of clothing, serving as a fastening when passed through a buttonhole or loop.
anything resembling a button, especially in being small and round, as any of various candies, ornaments, tags, identification badges, reflectors, markers, etc.
a badge or emblem bearing a name, slogan, identifying figure, etc., for wear on the lapel, dress, etc.:
campaign buttons.
any small knob or disk pressed to activate an electric circuit, release a spring, or otherwise operate or open a machine, small door, toy, etc.
Botany. a bud or other protuberant part of a plant.
  1. a young or undeveloped mushroom.
  2. any protuberant part of a fungus.
Zoology. any of various small parts or structures resembling a button, as the rattle at the tip of the tail in a very young rattlesnake.
Boxing Informal. the point of the chin.
Also called turn button. a fastener for a door, window, etc., having two arms and rotating on a pivot that is attached to the frame.
Metallurgy. (in assaying) a small globule or lump of metal at the bottom of a crucible after fusion.
Fencing. the protective, blunting knob fixed to the point of a foil.
Horology, crown (def 19).
Computers. (in a graphical user interface) any of the small, labeled areas upon which the user can click with a mouse to choose an option.
verb (used with object)
to fasten with a button or buttons:
She quickly buttoned her coat.
to insert (a button) in a buttonhole or loop:
He buttoned the top button of his shirt.
to provide (something) with a button or buttons.
verb (used without object)
to be capable of being buttoned:
This coat buttons, but that one zips.
button up, Informal.
  1. Also, button one's lip. to become or keep silent.
  2. to fasten securely; close up:
    Within a short time, everything on the submarine was buttoned up.
  3. to fasten fully or put on, especially an outer garment:
    Button up before going out.
  4. to complete successfully; finish:
    The report is all buttoned up.
have all one's buttons, Informal. to be mentally competent, alert, and sane; have all one's wits:
At 106 she still has all her buttons.
on the button, Informal. exactly as desired, expected, specified, etc.:
The prediction for snow was right on the button.
1275-1325; Middle English boto(u)n < Anglo-French: rosehip, button, stud; Middle French boton, equivalent to boter to butt3 + -on noun suffix
Related forms
buttoner, noun
buttonlike, adjective
misbutton, verb (used with object)
misbuttoned, adjective
rebutton, verb (used with object)
well-buttoned, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for on the button


a disc or knob of plastic, wood, etc, attached to a garment, etc, usually for fastening two surfaces together by passing it through a buttonhole or loop
a small round object, such as any of various sweets, decorations, or badges
a small disc that completes an electric circuit when pushed, as one that operates a doorbell or machine
a symbolic representation of a button on the screen of a computer that is notionally depressed by manipulating the mouse to initiate an action
(biology) any rounded knoblike part or organ, such as an unripe mushroom
(fencing) the protective knob fixed to the point of a foil
a small amount of metal, usually lead, with which gold or silver is fused, thus concentrating it during assaying
the piece of a weld that pulls out during the destructive testing of spot welds
(rowing) a projection around the loom of an oar that prevents it slipping through the rowlock
(Brit) an object of no value (esp in the phrase not worth a button)
(slang) intellect; mental capacity (in such phrases as a button short, to have all one's buttons, etc)
(informal) on the button, exactly; precisely
to fasten with a button or buttons
(transitive) to provide with buttons
(transitive) (fencing) to hit (an opponent) with the button of one's foil
button one's lip, button up one's lip, button one's mouth, button up one's mouth, to stop talking: often imperative
See also buttons, button up
Derived Forms
buttoner, noun
buttonless, adjective
buttony, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French boton, from boter to thrust, butt, of Germanic origin; see butt³
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for on the button



c.1300 (surname Botouner "button-maker" attested from mid-13c.), from Old French boton "a button," originally "a bud" (12c., Modern French bouton), from bouter, boter "to thrust," common Romanic (cf. Spanish boton, Italian bottone), ultimately from Germanic (see butt (v.)). Thus a button is, etymologically, something that pushes up, or thrusts out.

Meaning "point of the chin" is pugilistic slang, by 1921. A button as something you push to create an effect by closing an (electrical) circuit is attested from 1840s. Button-pusher as "deliberately annoying or provocative person" is attested by 1990 (in reference to Bill Gates, in "InfoWorld" magazine, Nov. 19). In the 1980s it meant "photographer."


late 14c., "to furnish with buttons;" early 15c., "to fasten with buttons" (of a garment,) from button (n.) or from Old French botoner (Modern French boutonner), from boton (n.). Related: Buttoned; buttoning. Button-down (adj.) in reference to shirt collars is from 1916.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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on the button in Medicine

button but·ton (bŭt'n)
A knob-like structure, device, or lesion.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for on the button

on the button

adjective phrase

Perfectly placed; absolutely correct; on the money, on the nose, spot-on: Your estimate was right on the button

adverb phrase

Precisely; exactly; on the dot, on the nose: The meter says 35 on the button (1937+)


  1. The chin; point of the chin: I got clipped square on the button (1920+)
  2. The clitoris; clit (1870s+)
  3. A small quantity of a narcotic: There exists some traffic, however, in ''buttons,'' or small amounts (1960s+ Narcotics)
  4. The rounded top of the peyote plant (1960s+ Narcotics)
  5. A police officer's badge; potsy, tin (1920s+)
  6. (also buttons) A police officer •Blue and buttons was used of the police (1900+)
noun phrase

7 (also button man or button player or button soldier) A low-ranking member of the Mafia; soldier (1960s+ Underworld)

Related Terms

belly button, chicken switch, hit the panic button, on the button

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with on the button
Exactly right, precisely, as in Her review of the book was right on the button, or We're supposed to be there at six o'clock on the button. This term may come from boxing, where a punch on the button means “a punch on the chin.” [ ; c. 1900 ]
Also see: on the dot
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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