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"]