This question already has an answer here:

Example sentence:

"As the concert ended, the atmosphere was all but ecstatic."

Replace words with synonyms:

  • all = everything
  • but = except

The sentence would appear:

"...the atmosphere was everything except ecstatic."

Meaning, "the concert was not ecstatic". It was all feelings except ecstatic.

I regularly hear similar sentences used in the way where "all but" means the exact opposite of my interpretation. The last straw of "curiosity : need-to-know" ratio broke when I heard it used in Band of Brothers--which very clearly implied the use of "all but" as a similar meaning to "very".

There's undoubtedly a hole in my logic.


Band of Brothers quote: "He was just one more casualty in a war that was supposed to be all but over."

marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Sep 3 '14 at 19:29

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • I like this question. The particular phrase bugs me because I think exactly as you put it. I think the interpretation is akin to "almost, but not quite" or "just short of the hyperbole it could be". – SrJoven Sep 3 '14 at 18:04
  • Possibly answered by “All but” idiom has two meanings? – John Bartholomew Sep 3 '14 at 18:08
  • @JohnBartholomew agreed. Not an exact duplicate, but encompassed and answered by that question. – Patrick M Sep 3 '14 at 18:46
  • It would be very helpful if you could post links to the sentence you cite about the concert and to the Band of Brothers comment. Related to the concert, have you eliminted the possibility that the comment was being used in an ironic or sarcastic way? Also, is this an actual comment or just one you made up? Because I think if you could point to some real examples not made-up ones it would allow for much more accurate analysis. – Brillig Sep 3 '14 at 19:14
  • @Brillig Edited question with exact Band of Brothers quote. As for your other request, I can't think of one example in particular. It's an expression I hear regularly enough to take notice, so one particular example (outside of the added quote) doesn't stand out in my memory. – rick6 Sep 3 '14 at 19:26