"Just" might be the most ambiguous word in English and confuses me a lot. I am trying to discuss each piece of its different meanings in a sequence of posts. Please focus this post on the meaning of "only and not involving anyone or anything else".

per Cambridge dictionary (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english-chinese-simplified/solely), "solely" has only one meaning, that is, "only and not involving anyone or anything else".

With this piece of meaning ("solely"), consider the following example

I don't like my job. I simply do it for the money.

coming from one of the different meanings of simply on Cambridge dictionary

obviously, simply shows the meaning of "only and not involving anyone or anything else", consequently, just, only, solely, simply could be used interchangeably, right?

The following example comes from the definition of "solely" on Cambridge dictionary

The product's success cannot be attributable solely to the ads.

If I substitute "just" for "solely"

The product's success cannot be attributable just to the ads.

Is it also idiomatic? Does it have the same meaning?

  • The interchangeability is limited. Especially between just and solely, because solely transports exclusively in itself. That can be desired but doesn't have to I just don't know. cannot be interchanged to I solely don't know. Here simply is the most suitable replacement for just.
    – Ben A.
    Feb 20, 2020 at 9:26
  • In other words: You can use any of the stated words but you change slightly or even significantly the meaning of the sentence. As I've already alluded in my first comment, I tend to deny that just and solely are synonyms.
    – Ben A.
    Feb 20, 2020 at 9:51
  • None of your references show the interchangeability between just and solely. So, why do you ask for it? Do you have other references, which support it?
    – Ben A.
    Feb 20, 2020 at 10:00
  • @BenA. I guess "just" in I just don't know. shows the meaning of “Really(used for emphasis)”
    – brennn
    Feb 20, 2020 at 11:31
  • I had a wider look at the sentence which included Stop weeping! But he's left me!. Why? I just don't now. I would insist that in such a case simply is the better translation as there is no reason for a really. No reason for insistence, for defense. But yes, there are also situations where really is more appropriate as translation. By the way, would you please eventually decide if this question is about solely or simply as meaning for just. The question text is ambiguous again after you have reverted my edit.
    – Ben A.
    Feb 20, 2020 at 12:39

1 Answer 1


"Just" and "solely" are not always interchangeable, although they can mean the same thing, depending on the context.

For example, you could say "he's just a baby", meaning he's not yet anything more than a baby with respect to age, growth, intellectual capacity etc. You would not say "he's solely a baby" because that isn't any baby's sole characteristic. They are also a boy, a girl, strong, tall, etc.

A dictionary will tell you that "just" has multiple definitions, including:

  • exactly
  • recently
  • barely
  • simply
  • no more than

All of your examples are perfectly idiomatic. Just (!) remember that the context can change the meaning, or at least the implication.

For example:

It's just a job.

This could idiomatically mean that you consider your job to be no more than a means of living (ie it isn't your vocation, your life's work). It could also be a response to a suggestion that your job is special, perhaps deserving of high praise or commendation, to denote in a humble way that it is simply your job.

  • Your answer is very helpful. Thank you. There are at least 2 meanings that "It's just a job" possibly implies, right? Could you please add a bit context conversation for each of those?
    – brennn
    Feb 27, 2020 at 11:54

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