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[wuhn] /wʌn/
being or amounting to a single unit or individual or entire thing, item, or object rather than two or more; a single:
one woman; one nation; one piece of cake.
being a person, thing, or individual instance or member of a number, kind, group, or category indicated:
one member of the party.
existing, acting, or considered as a single unit, entity, or individual.
of the same or having a single kind, nature, or condition:
We belong to one team; We are of one resolve.
noting some indefinite day or time in the future:
You will see him one day.
a certain (often used in naming a person otherwise unknown or undescribed):
One John Smith was chosen.
being a particular, unique, or only individual, item, or unit:
I'm looking for the one adviser I can trust.
noting some indefinite day or time in the past:
We all had dinner together one evening last week.
of no consequence as to the character, outcome, etc.; the same:
It's all one to me whether they go or not.
the first and lowest whole number, being a cardinal number; unity.
a symbol of this number, as 1 or I.
a single person or thing:
If only problems would come one at a time!
a die face or a domino face having one pip.
a one-dollar bill:
to change a five-dollar bill for five ones.
(initial capital letter) Neoplatonism. the ultimate reality, seen as a central source of being by whose emanations all entities, spiritual and corporeal, have their existence, the corporeal ones containing the fewest of the emanations.
a person or thing of a number or kind indicated or understood:
one of the Elizabethan poets.
(in certain pronominal combinations) a person unless definitely specified otherwise:
every one.
(with a defining clause or other qualifying words) a person or a personified being or agency:
the evil one; the one I love.
any person indefinitely; anyone:
as good as one would desire.
Chiefly British. (used as a substitute for the pronoun I):
Mother had been ailing for many months, and one should have realized it.
a person of the speaker's kind; such as the speaker himself or herself:
to press one's own claims.
something or someone of the kind just mentioned:
The portraits are fine ones. Your teachers this semester seem to be good ones.
something available or referred to, especially in the immediate area:
Here, take one—they're delicious. The bar is open, so have one on me!
at one,
  1. in a state of agreement; of one opinion.
  2. united in thought or feeling; attuned:
    He felt at one with his Creator.
one and all, everyone:
They came, one and all, to welcome him home.
one by one, singly and successively:
One by one the children married and moved away.
one for the road. road (def 10).
Origin of one
before 900; Middle English oon, Old English ān; cognate with Dutch een, German ein, Gothic ains, Latin ūnus (OL oinos); akin to Greek oínē ace on a die
Can be confused
one, wan, won (see usage note at the current entry)
Usage note
One as an indefinite pronoun meaning “any person indefinitely, anyone” is more formal than you, which is also used as an indefinite pronoun with the same sense: One (or you) should avoid misconceptions. One (or you) can correct this fault in three ways. When the construction requires that the pronoun be repeated, either one or he or he or she is used; he or he or she is the more common in the United States: Wherever one looks, he (or he or she) finds evidence of pollution. In speech or informal writing, a form of they sometimes occurs: Can one read this without having their emotions stirred?
In constructions of the type one of those who (or that or which), the antecedent of who is considered to be the plural noun or pronoun, correctly followed by a plural verb: He is one of those people who work for the government. Yet the feeling that one is the antecedent is so strong that a singular verb is commonly found in all types of writing: one of those people who works for the government. When one is preceded by only in such a construction, the singular verb is always used: the only one of her sons who visits her in the hospital.
The substitution of one for I, a typically British use, is usually regarded as an affectation in the United States. See also he1, they. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ones
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • On the day after your arrest, saying your dear ones should be cared for and comforted.

    The Eternal City Hall Caine
  • That was to keep the dear ones from quarreling all through the year.

    The Bird's Christmas Carol Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • I am distant from you, but I embrace you all—the dear ones of my blood.

    Diplomatic Days Edith O'Shaughnessy
  • Very often these are just the ones for which a definite reason can be given.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • Nor were the lifeboat crew the only ones that distinguished themselves.

British Dictionary definitions for ones


  1. single; lone; not two or more: one car
  2. (as pronoun): one is enough for now, one at a time
  3. (in combination): one-eyed, one-legged
  1. distinct from all others; only; unique: one girl in a million
  2. (as pronoun): one of a kind
  1. a specified (person, item, etc) as distinct from another or others of its kind: raise one hand and then the other
  2. (as pronoun): which one is correct?
a certain, indefinite, or unspecified (time); some: one day you'll be sorry
(informal) an emphatic word for a1 , an1 it was one hell of a fight
a certain (person): one Miss Jones was named
in one, all in one, combined; united
all one
  1. all the same
  2. of no consequence: it's all one to me
(often foll by with) at one, in a state of agreement or harmony
be made one, (of a man and a woman) to become married
many a one, many people
neither one thing nor the other, indefinite, undecided, or mixed
never a one, none
one and all, everyone, without exception
one by one, one at a time; individually
one or two, a few
one way and another, on balance
(informal) off on one, exhibiting bad temper; ranting
one with another, on average
an indefinite person regarded as typical of every person: one can't say any more than that
any indefinite person: used as the subject of a sentence to form an alternative grammatical construction to that of the passive voice: one can catch fine trout in this stream
(archaic) an unspecified person: one came to him
the smallest whole number and the first cardinal number; unity See also number (sense 1)
a numeral (1, I, i, etc) representing this number
(informal) a joke or story (esp in the one about)
(music) the numeral 1 used as the lower figure in a time signature to indicate that the beat is measured in semibreves
something representing, represented by, or consisting of one unit
Also called one o'clock. one hour after noon or midnight
a blow or setback (esp in the phrase one in the eye for)
the one, (in Neo-Platonic philosophy) the ultimate being
the Holy One, the One above, God
the Evil One, Satan; the devil
prefixes mono- uni- adjective single
Word Origin
Old English ān, related to Old French ān, ēn, Old High German ein, Old Norse einn, Latin unus, Greek oinē ace
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ones



c.1200, from Old English an (adjective, pronoun, noun) "one," from Proto-Germanic *ainaz (cf. Old Norse einn, Danish een, Old Frisian an, Dutch een, German ein, Gothic ains), from PIE *oi-no- "one, unique" (cf. Greek oinos "ace (on dice);" Latin unus "one;" Old Persian aivam; Old Church Slavonic -inu, ino-; Lithuanian vienas; Old Irish oin; Breton un "one").

Originally pronounced as it still is in only, and in dialectal good 'un, young 'un, etc.; the now-standard pronunciation "wun" began c.14c. in southwest and west England (Tyndale, a Gloucester man, spells it won in his Bible translation), and it began to be general 18c. Use as indefinite pronoun influenced by unrelated French on and Latin homo.

One and only "sweetheart" is from 1906. One of those things "unpredictable occurrence" is from 1934. Slang one-arm bandit "a type of slot machine" is recorded by 1938. One-night stand is 1880 in performance sense; 1963 in sexual sense. One of the boys "ordinary amiable fellow" is from 1893. One-track mind is from 1927. Drinking expression one for the road is from 1950 (as a song title).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for ones


Related Terms

murder one, number one

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with ones
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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