Nearby words

  1. alkylating drug,
  2. alkylation,
  3. alkylic,
  4. alkyne,
  5. alkyne series,
  6. all along,
  7. all along the line,
  8. all and sundry,
  9. all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,
  10. all at once


Origin of all

before 900; Middle English al, plural alle; Old English eal(l); cognate with Gothic alls, Old Norse allr, Old Frisian, Dutch, Middle Low German al, Old Saxon, Old High German al(l) (German all); if < *ol-no-, equivalent to Welsh oll and akin to Old Irish uile < *ol-io-; cf. almighty

2. every one of, each of. 14. totally, utterly, fully.

Can be confusedall awl (see usage note at the current entry)

Usage note

Expressions like all the farther and all the higher occur chiefly in informal speech: This is all the farther the bus goes. That's all the higher she can jump. Elsewhere as far as and as high as are generally used: This is as far as the bus goes. That's as high as she can jump.
Although some object to the inclusion of of in such phrases as all of the students and all of the contracts and prefer to omit it, the construction is entirely standard.
See also already, alright, altogether.




at one time in the past; formerly: I was a farmer once; a once powerful nation.
a single time: We ate there just once. We go to a movie once a week.
even a single time; at any time; ever: If the facts once become known, it will be just too bad.
by a single step, degree, or grade: a cousin once removed.


former; having at one time been: the once and future king.


if or when at any time; if ever.
whenever; as soon as: Once you're finished, you can leave.


a single occasion; one time only: Once is enough.

Origin of once

before 1150; Middle English ones, Old English ānes, orig. genitive of ān one; replacing Middle English enes, Old English ǣnes once, equivalent to ǣne once (orig. instrumental of ān) + -es adv. suffix; see -s1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for once and for all



one time; on one occasion or in one case
at some past time; formerlyI could speak French once
by one step or degree (of relationship)a cousin once removed
(in conditional clauses, negatives, etc) ever; at allif you once forget it
multiplied by one
once and away
  1. conclusively
  2. occasionally
once and for all conclusively; for the last time
once in a while occasionally; now and then
once or twice or once and again a few times
once upon a time used to begin fairy tales and children's stories


(subordinating) as soon as; if ever or wheneveronce you begin, you'll enjoy it


one occasion or caseyou may do it, this once
all at once
  1. suddenly or without warning
  2. simultaneously
at once
  1. immediately
  2. simultaneously
for once this time, if (or but) at no other time

Word Origin for once

C12 ones, ānes, adverbial genitive of on, ān one



  1. the whole quantity or amount of; totality of; every one of a classall the rice; all men are mortal
  2. (as pronoun; functioning as sing or plural)all of it is nice; all are welcome
  3. (in combination with a noun used as a modifier)an all-ticket match; an all-amateur tournament; an all-night sitting
the greatest possiblein all earnestness
any whateverto lose all hope of recovery; beyond all doubt
above all most of all; especially
after all See after (def. 11)
all along all the time
all but almost; nearlyall but dead
all of no less or smaller thanshe's all of thirteen years
all over
  1. finished; at an endthe affair is all over between us
  2. over the whole area (of something); everywhere (in, on, etc)all over England
  3. typically; representatively (in the phrase that's me (you, him, us, them, etc) all over)Also (Irish): all out
  4. unduly effusive towards
  5. sportin a dominant position over
See all in
all in all
  1. everything consideredall in all, it was a great success
  2. the object of one's attention or interestyou are my all in all
all that or that (usually used with a negative) informal (intensifier)she's not all that intelligent
all the (foll by a comparative adjective or adverb) so much (more or less) than otherwisewe must work all the faster now
all too definitely but regrettablyit's all too true
and all
  1. British informalas well; tooand you can take that smile off your face and all
  2. Southern Africana parenthetical filler phrase used at the end of a statement to make a sl ight pause in speaking
and all that informal
  1. and similar or associated things; et ceteracoffee, tea, and all that will be served in the garden
  2. used as a filler or to make what precedes more vague: in this sense, it often occurs with concessive forceshe was sweet and pretty and all that, but I still didn't like her
  3. See that (def. 4)
as all that as one might expect or hopeshe's not as pretty as all that, but she has personality
at all
  1. (used with a negative or in a question)in any way whatsoever or to any extent or degreeI didn't know that at all
  2. even so; anywayI'm surprised you came at all
be all for informal to be strongly in favour of
be all that informal, mainly US to be exceptionally good, talented, or attractive
for all
  1. in so far as; to the extent thatfor all anyone knows, he was a baron
  2. notwithstandingfor all my pushing, I still couldn't move it
for all that in spite of thathe was a nice man for all that
in all altogetherthere were five of them in all


(in scores of games) apiece; eachthe score at half time was three all
completelyall alone
be all … informal used for emphasis when introducing direct speech or nonverbal communicationhe was all, 'I'm not doing that'


(preceded by my, your, his, etc) (one's) complete effort or interestto give your all; you are my all
totality or whole
Related formsRelated prefixes: pan-, panto-

Word Origin for all

Old English eall; related to Old High German al, Old Norse allr, Gothic alls all

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

Word Origin and History for once and for all
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with once and for all

once and for all

As a settled matter, finally, permanently, as in Once and for all, we're not hiring that organist again, or We've settled that question once and for all. This expression is in effect an abbreviation for “one time and for all time.” [Late 1400s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with all

  • all along
  • all along the line
  • all and sundry
  • all at once
  • all at sea
  • all better
  • all but
  • all cylinders
  • all ears
  • all else being equal
  • alley cat
  • all eyes
  • all for
  • all for the best
  • all gone
  • all hours
  • all in a day's work
  • all in all
  • all in, be
  • all in good time
  • all in one piece
  • all joking aside
  • all kinds of
  • all of
  • all of a sudden
  • all of the above
  • all one
  • all out
  • all outdoors, big as
  • all over
  • all over but the shouting
  • all over one
  • all over the place
  • all over with
  • all present and accounted for
  • all right
  • all right for you
  • all right with one
  • all roads lead to Rome
  • all set
  • all sewed up
  • all shook up
  • all sorts
  • all systems go
  • all talk (and no action)
  • all that
  • all that glitters is not gold
  • all the
  • all the best
  • all the better
  • all the rage
  • all there
  • all the same
  • all the thing
  • all the time
  • all the way
  • all the worse
  • all things to all people, be
  • all thumbs
  • all told
  • all to the good
  • all up
  • all very well
  • all well and good
  • all wet
  • all wool and a yard wide
  • all work and no play (makes Jack a dull boy)
  • all year round

also see:

  • above all
  • after all
  • against all odds
  • as all getout
  • at all
  • at all costs
  • be-all and end-all
  • beat all
  • by all accounts
  • by all means
  • by all odds
  • cap it all
  • fall all over
  • firing on all cylinders
  • first of all
  • for all
  • for all I care
  • for all I know
  • for all one's worth
  • for all that
  • get away (from it all)
  • get one's act (it all) together
  • go all the way
  • have all one's buttons
  • have it all over someone
  • have it both ways (all)
  • hit on all cylinders
  • hold all the aces
  • in a (all of a) dither
  • in all
  • in all good conscience
  • in all one's born days
  • in all probability
  • (all) in the same boat
  • it's all downhill from here
  • it's all over with
  • it takes all sorts
  • jump all over
  • know all the answers
  • know-it-all
  • laugh all the way to the bank
  • least of all
  • let it all hang out
  • not all it's cracked up to be
  • not at all
  • not for all the tea in china
  • no time at all
  • of all the nerve
  • of all things
  • once and for all
  • one and all
  • pull out all the stops
  • put all one's eggs in one basket
  • seen one, seen them all
  • till all hours
  • to all intents and purposes
  • (all) to the good
  • turn out all right
  • walk all over
  • warts and all
  • when all's said and done
  • with all due respect
  • with all one's heart
  • you can't win them all


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

also see:

  • all at once
  • at once
  • every now and then (once in a while)
  • give someone the once-over
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.