[ awr, ohr ]
/ ɔr, oʊr /
Save This Word!

preposition, adverb Literary.
contraction of over.
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?


oar, o'er , or, ore

Other definitions for o'er (2 of 2)

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does o'er mean?

O’er is a poetic contraction of the word over. It’s typically found in old poetry and song lyrics.

O’er is a contraction, meaning it’s a shortened form of a word in which certain letters are replaced with an apostrophe. We use contractions all the time, especially to combine two words into one, as in it’s and isn’t. But o’er is contracted for poetic reasons: to reduce it to one syllable in order to fit a specific meter (the set rhythm of a poem), to make a line flow better, or to make it easier to find a rhyme. It’s not commonly used anymore.

Example: “Shakespeare is the worst,” you opine, “I quit.”
At first line, you whine, “I wish this were o’er.”

But by end admit, “His lit, ’tis pretty lit.”
And lo, you shout, “O!” pining for e’en more.

Where does o'er come from?

O’er is first recorded around the late 1500s, and ’twas used in poetry for centuries after. Today, you’ll most oft find it in old poetry and hymns, where it was used to fit a certain meter or rhyme scheme. Shakespeare frequently used o’er in his plays and sonnets as a way to cut a syllable and achieve iambic pentameter, which requires lines that are 10 syllables long. Consider this line in his play Twelfth Night: “O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound” (using o’er instead of over makes it 10 syllables instead of 11).

O’er may seem archaic, but chances are you’ve encountered it in some classic songs. It shows up in “Jingle Bells” (“o’er the fields we go”) and the “Star-Spangled Banner” (“o’er the ramparts we watched”). It’s used in many traditional song titles, like that of the traditional Scottish tune “When the Battle’s O’er.” If a musical artist uses it in a song title today, it’s probably to give the song an antique feel. Similar contractions include e’er (for ever) and ne’er (for never, most commonly encountered in ne’er-do-well). Technically, o’er is an example of elision, which is the omitting of a part of a word in its pronunciation.

Did you know ... ?

What are some words that share a root or word element with o’er

  • o’erhead (for overheard)

What are some words that often get used in discussing o’er?


What are some words o’er may be commonly confused with?


How is o'er used in real life?

You’ll most often find o’er in old poetry or songs or things imitating that kind of style, like the Lannister anthem “The Rains of Castamere” from TV show Game of Thrones: “And now the rains weep o’er his hall / with no one there to hear.”


Try using o'er!

Why is o’er used instead of over?

A. to remove a syllable
B. to fit a poetic meter
C. to fit a rhyme scheme
D. all of the above

How to use o'er in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for o'er

/ (ɔː, əʊə) /

preposition, adverb
a poetic contraction of over
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