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[on-too, awn-; unstressed on-tuh, awn-] /ˈɒn tu, ˈɔn-; unstressed ˈɒn tə, ˈɔn-/
to a place or position on; upon; on:
to get onto a horse.
Informal. in or into a state of awareness about:
I'm onto your scheme.
Also, surjective. Mathematics. pertaining to a function or map from one set to another set, the range of which is the entire second set.
Origin of onto
First recorded in 1575-85; on + to
Can be confused
on, onto, on to.


a combining form meaning “being,” used in the formation of compound words:
Also, especially before a vowel, ont-.
< New Latin < Greek ont- (stem of ón, neuter present participle of eînai to be) + -o- -o- Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for onto
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He tossed them onto the table, and Hal Dozier rolled his smoke in silence.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • If you'd been onto your job, things would have been smooth as silk.

    Chip, of the Flying U B. M. Bower
  • But it must be something new, or we should have got onto it.

    It Happened in Egypt C. N. Williamson
  • With a word of farewell, he climbed out of the cockpit and onto a wing.

    The Solar Magnet Sterner St. Paul Meek
  • I can mention his name now without Ketury's landin' onto me like a snowslide.

    Cy Whittaker's Place Joseph C. Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for onto


/ˈɒntʊ; unstressed ˈɒntə/
to a position that is on: step onto the train as it passes
having become aware of (something illicit or secret): the police are onto us
into contact with: get onto the factory
Usage note
Onto is now generally accepted as a word in its own right. On to is still used, however, where on is considered to be part of the verb: he moved on to a different town as contrasted with he jumped onto the stage


combining form
existence or being: ontogeny, ontology
Word Origin
from Late Greek, from ōn (stem ont-) being, present participle of einai to be
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 onto

1580s, as on to, from on + to. Appeared much later than parallel into. As a closed compound (on analogy of into), first recorded 1715.


word-forming element meaning "a being, individual; being, existence," from Greek onto-, from stem of on (genitive ontos) "being," neuter present participle of einai "to be" (see essence).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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onto in Medicine

onto- or ont-
Organism; being: ontogeny.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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