Alistair's only the fourth son

Pavel Pin

Senior Member
Oliver says to Kitty Pong, who is going to marry Alistair:

Oliver: You'll be lucky if Alistair's parents give you a tea ceremony. You know Alistair's only the fourth son of a penny-pinching family, don't you?

What's the purpose of "only"?
Source: Crazy Rich Asians 2018
  • prudent260

    Senior Member
    Is it about the tradition in the country?
    The first son's ceremony is, most of the time, special and unique because it is the first for a family (although other sons could get married earlier sometimes).
    In some cultures, older sons have a better position in line to family fortune.
    Being only the fourth son, he may not be so important or powerful in the family, so getting a tea ceremony is considered lucky.

    only | meaning of only in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English | LDOCE
    2 used to say that something or someone is not very important, serious etc
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    AE (US English)
    Yes, in whatever culture Alistair's family lives in, a 4th son is not important. Only the 1st son (oldest) and maybe the 2d son matter.

    This was true in England in past centuries, when noble or rich families gave their whole fortune (the house, the farms, the peasants on the farms) to the 1st son.

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Aristocratic first-born sons still usually inherit the title and land in the UK. The law has only recently been changed so that a first-born female child can inherit the throne, regardless of younger brothers.
    (It's a very long time since we called farm/agricultural workers 'peasants' and even longer since there were slaves to be bought and sold and inherited. Their lives might not have been much better in some respects.)