Intermediate+ Word of the Day: just

just (adverb, adjective) /dʒʌst/ LISTEN

The law should be just.

As an adverb, just means ‘a moment before’ or ‘at this moment.’ It also means ‘exactly,’ ‘really,’ or ‘simply,’ and ‘by a narrow margin.’ It is a synonym for ‘only’ as well. As an adjective, something just is something done with justice and reason or based on law and right or something proper and done according to principles. Its also a synonym for deserved.

Example sentences

  • You want to see Roger? Sorry, he just left.
  • I had to work late and my favorite TV show was just ending when I got home.
  • You don't seem to understand; that's just what I'm saying!
  • They couldn't get to the store because of the snow, so they just had to make do with the food they had in the house.
  • The agency just finished the work in time.
  • It's not Tim's fault; he's just a kid.
  • Even though the decision wasn't what the community wanted, after they'd looked at all the arguments, they had to agree it was just.
  • It seems to me that being grounded for a week is a just punishment for staying out past your curfew (a curfew is the time you need to be home by).

Words often used with just

just about: almost. Example: “I’m just about done with work for today, so we can go out soon.”

just so: exactly right. Example: “Linda is very fussy and likes to have everything on her desk just so; she’d notice if you moved a pen half an inch!”

just deserts: if you get your just deserts, that means you get what you deserve. Example: “Don’t complain about your girlfriend leaving; you were the one who cheated on her! You got your just deserts.” (And no, that’s not a typo; this really should be the word deserts and not the things you eat after a meal, desserts.)

In pop culture

A song that uses just in the sense of ‘only’ is “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” a jazz classic written by Walter Donaldson and originally recorded for the movie Whoopee in 1930. It has been covered by a number of artists since, but one of the most famous versions is the version sung by Nina Simone and originally recorded in 1958. It was subsequently featured in a perfume commercial in the UK in 1987 and was rereleased with a video featuring claymation cats, created by the English studio Aardman Animation, which makes the Wallace and Gromit films. You can listen to Nina sing the song and watch the claymation video here:

It went to number 5 in the UK singles chart almost thirty years after Nina Simone made the original recording!


Just (the adjective meaning fair or lawful) dates back to the mid-14th century. In Middle English, it also meant ‘sincere,’ ‘precise,’ or ‘exact.’ It came into English through the Old French juste (righteous, sincere), but it can be traced back to the Latin adjective iūstus (righteous), created by adding an adjective suffix, -tus, to the noun iūs, meaning ‘law.’ Related words can be found in most European languages. The adverb comes from the adjective, and dates back to the mid-17th century. It took up the meanings of ‘exact,’ ‘precise,’ and ‘punctual’ that the adjective had lost.

Just was suggested by Helen, from the US.

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