- simultaneously: The children were running, screaming, and throwing things all at once.
- suddenly: All at once the rain came down.
- at the same time; simultaneously: Don't all speak at once.
- immediately; promptly: Tell him to come at once!
Origin of once
- suddenly or without warning
Word Origin for once
c.1200, anes, from ane "one" (see one ) + adverbial genitive. Replaced Old English æne. Spelling changed as pronunciation shifted from two syllables to one after c.1300. Pronunciation change to "wuns" parallels that of one. As an emphatic, meaning "once and for all," it is attested from c.1300, but this now is regarded as a Pennsylvania German dialect formation. Meaning "in a past time" (but not necessarily just one time) is from mid-13c.
Once upon a time as the beginning of a story is recorded from 1590s. At once originally (early 13c.) meant "simultaneously," later "in one company" (c.1300), and preserved the sense of "one" in the word; the phrase typically appeared as one word, atones; the modern meaning "immediately" is attested from 1530s.
all at once
All at the same time, as in We can't get inside all at once, so please wait your turn. [Late 1300s]
Suddenly, unexpectedly, as in All at once the sky darkened. For a synonym, see all of a sudden.
In addition to the idioms beginning with once
- once and for all
- once bitten, twice shy
- once in a blue moon
- once in a lifetime
- once in a while
- once over lightly
- once upon a time
- all at once
- at once
- every now and then (once in a while)
- give someone the once-over