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The meaning and origin of the expression: Including, but not limited to

Including, but not limited to

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Including, but not limited to'?

Including, but not limited to'Including, but not limited to' is easiest to explain in an example. Like this...

There might be a sign on a park's gate with a warning like this:

"In this park certain activities are not permitted, including, but not limited to, skateboarding, cycling and ball games."

The park authorities list some of the things that they don't allow but, by using "not limited to" they are making it clear that other activities, like car racing or bear-baiting, might be disallowed to.

It wouldn't be practical, or necessary, to list everything you can't do in the park, so the authorities pick some important ones and then add the 'and any other unlisted thing we don't like' in the 'not limited to' rider.

People are often unsure about the punctuation of 'including, but not limited to'.

The expression is clearer if sub-phrase 'but not limited to' is bracketed off in some way. Any of these could be used for that:

A. Including, but not limited to, skateboarding, cycling and ball games.

B. Including - but not limited to - skateboarding, cycling and ball games.

C. Including (but not limited to) skateboarding, cycling and ball games.

All of the above convey the meaning and are grammatically correct. B and C are rather clunky though and commas, as in A are perfectly adequate.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Including, but not limited to'?

The expression "including, but not limited to" arose and is usually used in legal or other official contexts.

It isn't really necessary, as a simple 'including' has the same legal force. The word 'including' doesn't suggest exclusivity, so the 'not limited to' is superfluous.

We might say "the letters of the alphabet include a, b and c". No one could argue that that suggests that a, b and c are the only letters of the alphabet.

However, lawyers like to cover their backs when writing contracts.

In essence the phrase is used to mean "including 'these important things', but also including 'all the other things I can't think of right now'.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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