Word Confusion: But versus Butt

Posted December 20, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

This one doesn’t pop up too often on my radar, but it’s just enough that I felt the need to point out the obvious…lest you be the butt of laughter around the water cooler.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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But Butt
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: butt

Pin with a red slash across the words Yes But

“Yes, but” courtesy of a post of the same name by Ted Nellen at CyberEnglish

“Filthy Habit” was photographed by Chris Sanderson in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, and is his own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL license, via Wikimedia Commons

Cigarette butt dropped into the filthy snow.

Part of Grammar:
Adverb 1; Conjunction 1;
Noun 1, 2
Plural for the noun: buts
Preposition 1
Noun 3, 4, 5, 6
Verb, intransitive & transitive 3

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: butts
Past tense or past participle: butted
Gerund or present participle: butting

No more than


Introduces a contrast to something already mentioned

  • Nevertheless
  • However
  • On the contrary
  • In contrast

[With negative or in questions] Used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated

Used to introduce a response expressing a feeling such as surprise or anger

Used after an expression of apology for what one is about to say

[Archaic; with negative] Without its being the case that

Argument against something


[Scottish] An outer room, especially in a two-roomed cottage 1


Apart from

Other than

Used with repetition of certain words to give emphasis

Noun: 3
Push or blow, typically given with the head

Person or thing at which, usually, unkind humor or criticism is directed 4

Archery or shooting target or range 4

Blind for shooting birds

[Obsolete] Limit, bound

[Archaic] goal

Thicker end of a tool or rifle 6

Stub of a cigar or cigarette 6

The large or thicker end part of something 6

  • Lean upper cut of the pork shoulder
  • Base of a plant from which the roots spring
  • Thicker or handle end of a tool or weapon

Part of a hide or skin corresponding to the animal’s back and sides

[Informal; chiefly North American] Buttocks 6

Trunk of a tree, specifically the part just above the ground 6

Cask typically used for wine, ale, or water 6

Verb, intransitive:
To thrust or push headfirst

  • Strike with the head or horns

Verb, transitive:
To strike or shove with the head or horns 3

To come into conflict 3

Adjoin or meet end to end 5

  • Join pieces of stone, lumber, and other building materials with the ends or sides flat against each other
He is but a shadow of his former self.

There were a variety of nougats, creme-filled, and nuts, to name but a few.

It never rains, but it pours.

She was cute, but a handful.

I wanted to go to the movies, but mom expected me to babysit.

He stumbled but didn’t fall.

This is one principle, but it is not the only one.

It was nothing they could do but swallow their pride.

One cannot but sympathize with your loss.

But why?

I’m sorry, but I can’t pay you.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

No, I don’t want to hear any buts.

We lived but and ben with them.

Nobody, but nobody was going to stop her.

We were never anything but poor.

It was the last but one.

Ooh, that head butt had to hurt!

Butt of a joke
Cigarette butt

He hit him with the butt end.

Nice butt

Butt of wine

You should use a butt joint on that.

We’re headed out to the butts to practice.

“Here is my journey’s end, here is my butt.” – Shakespeare

Verb, intransitive:
The goat butted him in the head.

The driveway butted up against the house.

Verb, transitive:
The floorboards will be butted up against each other to make tight seams.

I used butt joints to assemble the box.

Those two are always butting heads.

Noun: buttock
Phrasal Verb
butt in 3
butt out 3
History of the Word:
1 Old English be-ūtan, būtan, būta meaning outside, without, except.

2 Early 18th century, originally from 1 in the early sense of outside, but more specifically into the outer part of a house.

3 First known use: 13th century

Middle English from the Old French boter, buter and is of Germanic origin. It’s also akin to Old High German bōzan meaning to beat

4 First known use: 14th century

Middle English from the Old French but is of unknown origin, but was perhaps influenced by the French butte meaning rising ground.

5 First known use: 15th century

Late Middle English probably akin to Middle English buttok meaning buttock and the Low German butt meaning blunt

  • The noun is apparently related to the Dutch bot meaning stumpy, also buttock
  • The verb is partly to 4

6 First known use: 14th century

Late Middle English from the Old French bot, from the late Latin buttis

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Running with the Winos in France” by Samantha Stanway is a funny post about the Marathon du Médoc with its 23 wine stations, an oyster table, and grilled beef served mid-race and many in the most outrageous costumes, lol.