on and off, off(def 54a).
    on and on, at great length, so as to become tiresome: They rambled on and on about their grandchildren.
    on the bow, Nautical. bow3(def 8).
    on to, aware of the true nature, motive, or meaning of: I'm on to your little game.

Origin of on

before 900; Middle English on, an, Old English: on, in, to; cognate with Dutch aan, German an, Old Norse ā, Gothic ana; akin to Greek aná up, upon (see ana-)
Can be confusedon on to onto




Biblical name of Heliopolis. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ons

Historical Examples of ons

British Dictionary definitions for ons


abbreviation for (in Britain)

Office for National Statistics



the ancient Egyptian and biblical name for Heliopolis


abbreviation for

Old Norse
(esp in postal addresses) Ontario



in contact or connection with the surface of; at the upper surface ofan apple on the ground; a mark on the table cloth
attached toa puppet on a string
carried withI've no money on me
in the immediate vicinity of; close to or along the side ofa house on the sea; this verges on the ridiculous!
within the time limits of a day or datehe arrived on Thursday
being performed upon or relayed through the medium ofwhat's on the television?
at the occasion ofon his retirement
used to indicate support, subsistence, contingency, etche lives on bread; it depends on what you want
  1. regularly taking (a drug)she's on the pill
  2. addicted tohe's on heroin
by means of (something considered as a mode of transport) (esp in such phrases as on foot, on wheels, on horseback, etc)
in the process or course ofon a journey; on strike
concerned with or relating toa tax on potatoes; a programme on archaeology
used to indicate the basis, grounds, or cause, as of a statement or actionI have it on good authority
against: used to indicate oppositionthey marched on the city at dawn
used to indicate a meeting or encounterhe crept up on her
(used with an adjective preceded by the) indicating the manner or way in which an action is carried outon the sly; on the cheap
  1. staked or wagered as a betten pounds on that horse
  2. charged tothe drinks are on me
(usually followed by it) Australian drinking alcoholic liquor
informal, or dialect to the loss or disadvantage ofthe old car gave out on us

adverb (often used as a particle)

in the position or state required for the commencement or sustained continuation, as of a mechanical operationthe radio's been on all night
attached to, surrounding, or placed in contact with somethingthe girl had nothing on
taking placewhat's on tonight?
in a manner indicating continuity, persistence, concentration, etcdon't keep on about it; the play went on all afternoon
in a direction towards something, esp forwards; so as to make progresswe drove on towards London; march on!
on and off or off and on intermittently; from time to time
on and on without ceasing; continually


functioning; operatingturn the switch to the on position
(postpositive) informal
  1. performing, as on stageI'm on in five minutes
  2. definitely taking placethe match is on for Friday; their marriage is still on
  3. tolerable, practicable, acceptable, etcyour plan just isn't on
  4. (of a person) willing to do something
on at informal naggingshe was always on at her husband
cricket (of a bowler) bowling


  1. (modifier)relating to or denoting the leg side of a cricket field or pitchthe on side; an on drive
  2. (in combination)used to designate certain fielding positions on the leg sidelong-on; mid-on

Word Origin for on

Old English an, on; related to Old Saxon an, Old High German, Gothic ana
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 ons



Old English on, unstressed variant of an "in, on, into," from Proto-Germanic *ana "on" (cf. Dutch aan, German an, Gothic ana "on, upon"), from PIE root *an- "on" (cf. Avestan ana "on," Greek ana "on, upon," Latin an-, Old Church Slavonic na, Lithuanian nuo "down from"). Also used in Old English in many places where we would now use in. From 16c.-18c. (and still in northern England dialect) often reduced to o'. Phrase on to "aware" is from 1877. On time is from 1890.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper