Old English butan, buton "unless; with the exception of; without, outside," from West Germanic *be-utan, a compound of *be- "by" (see by) + *utana "out, outside; from without," from ut "out" (see out (adv.)). Not used as a conjunction until late Old English, "on the contrary." Senses attested in early Middle English include "however, yet; no more than." As an introductory expression, early 13c. As a noun, "an objection, an exception" from late 14c.
Som man preiseth his neighebore by a wikked entente, foralwey he maketh a 'but' at the laste ende, that is digne of moore blame than worth is al the preisynge. [Chaucer, "Parson's Tale"]
negative particle, a word expressing negation, denial, refusal, or prohibition, mid-13c., unstressed variant of noht, naht "in no way" (see naught). As an interjection to negate what was said before or reveal it as sarcasm, it is attested by 1900, popularized 1989 by "Wayne's World" sketches on "Saturday Night Live" TV show.
Not, spoken with emphasis, often stands for the negation of a whole sentence referred to: as, I hope not (that is, I hope that the state of things you describe does not exist). [Century Dictionary, 1895]
To not know X from Y (one's ass from one's elbow, shit from Shinola, etc.) was a construction attested from c. 1930 in modern use; but compare Middle English not know an A from a windmill (c. 1400). Double negative construction not un- was derided by Orwell, but is persistent and ancient in English, popular with Milton and the Anglo-Saxon poets.
c. 1200, "latest, final, following all others," a contraction of Old English latost (adj.) "slowest, latest," superlative of læt (see late); in some uses from late (adv.). Cognate with Old Frisian lest, Dutch laatst, Old High German laggost, German letzt.
Meaning "last in space, furthest, most remote" is from late 14c.; meaning "most unlikely or unsuitable" is from mid-15c. Meaning "most recent, next before the present" (as in last night, last September) is from late 14c.; latest would be more correct, but idiom rules and the last time I saw her might mean the most recent time this hour or the final time forever.
The biblical last days ("belonging to the end") is attested from late 14c. Last hurrah is from the title of Edwin O'Connor's 1956 novel. Last word "final, definitive statement" is from 1650s. A dying person's last words so called by 1740. As an adjective, last-minute attested from 1913. Last-chance (adj.) is from 1962. Expression if it's the last thing I do, expressing strong determination, is attested by 1905.
"wooden model of a human foot used by shoemakers," from Old English læste "shoemaker's last," earlier last "track, footprint, footstep, trace," from Proto-Germanic *laisti- (source also of Old Norse leistr "the foot," Middle Dutch, Dutch leest "form, model, last," Old High German leist "track, footprint," German Leisten "last," Gothic laistjan "to follow"), related to Old English læran "to teach," from PIE root *lois- "furrow, track."
"endure, go on existing," from Old English læstan "to continue, endure," earlier "follow (a leader), accomplish, carry out, perform," from Proto-Germanic *laistjan "to follow a track" (source also of Gothic laistjan "to follow after," Old Frisian lasta "to fulfill, to pay (duties)," German leisten "to perform, achieve, afford"), from PIE root *lois- "furrow, track." It is related to last (n.1), but not to last (adj.). Related: Lasted; lasting.
'There are but two families in the world, as my grandmother used to say; "the Have's and the Have-not's," and she stuck to the former; and now-a-days, master Don Quixote, people are more inclined to feel the pulse of Have than of Know.' ["Don Quixote de la Mancha," transl. Charles Jarvis, London, 1742]
"on the last line of defense," 1909, from an image attested by 1715, from a quote attributed to William of Orange (1650-1702), who is said to have uttered it defiantly during the French invasion of 1672; if so, originally in a Netherlands context.
We have no space to enter into the detail of the heroic struggle maintained by the young stadtholder and his faithful Dutchmen; how they laid their country under water, and successfully kept the powerful invader at bay. Once the contest seemed utterly hopeless. William was advised to compromise the matter, and yield up Holland as the conquest of Louis XIV. "No," replied he; "I mean to die in the last ditch." A speech alone sufficient to render his memory immortal. [Agnes Strickland, "Lives of the Queens of England," London, 1847]