I'm looking for a word that means 'only' or 'but,' but only in a specific context. The sample sentence that I'm wanting to translate is "I am only human" in the sense that they are nothing more than human. In modern German, they would phrase it as "Ich bin nur ein Mensch." I was able to find all the Old English equivalents to the other words (something along the lines of Ic beo ______ (an) mennisc). The problem is with "only." Only translated as "anlic" in Modern German would be "allein" I believe, and would give the meaning of "I alone am human." I'm not sure if the Old English version would have this meaning, and I've had no luck finding an Old English equivalent to the German "nur." I'm also not sure if I should be phrasing it as "I am but human/a man" or "I am nought but human/a man." Would anyone be willing to enlighten me?

  • Anlic is "single"; the "merely" sense, with a deleted negative ("I am [nothing but] only a man"), is a later development in its history. Búton, bútan "except" may have this sense, but again seems to require a negative context, though the negative can be fairly remote -- see Beowulf 878-879. Feb 4, 2017 at 0:24

2 Answers 2


What about "nothing... but...", "náht... búton(bútan)" like in :

Gif hé ágylte, hé hit georne gebéte and syððan geswíce; 
for ðí ne bið nán bót náht búton þǽr beó geswicenes (Hml. Th. i. 268, 22.)

Confer e.g. in Beowulf :

878 þára þe gumena bearn      gearwe ne wiston  
    those things of which the childen of men      by no means knew,
879 faéhðe ond fyrena      búton Fitela mid hine,   
    feuds and feats of arms,      only Fitela with him,

Where did you come up with ,,anlic?''

,,Allein'' has a different meaning... translated to English it is closer to the meaning we place with "I am alone" vs "I alone am human." If you are a native English speaker, the difference and inflection are evident.

I think you may search down the path of ,,bloss'' as that has an earlier origin than ,,nur'' and can often be used as a synonym.


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