[ on-werd, awn- ]
/ ˈɒn wərd, ˈɔn- /
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adverb Also onwards.
toward a point ahead or in front; forward, as in space or time.
at a position or point in advance.
directed or moving onward or forward; forward.
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Origin of onward

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at on, -ward

synonym study for onward

1. See forward.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does onward mean?

Onward means about the same thing as forward—toward a point ahead or in the future.

It can be used in the context of travel through physical space or through time, but it is perhaps most commonly used when discussing progress toward a goal.

Onward can be used as either an adverb or an adjective. When used as an adverb, onward typically comes after the verb, as in We traveled onward. When onward is used as an adverb, it is interchangeable with onwards (which is only used as an adverb).

It can be used to refer to all the time after a certain point, as in These records are from 1950 onward. 

It can also be used as a kind of command or word of encouragement meaning something like move on, as in Onward, scouts! We need to reach camp before nightfall.

Onward appears in the phrase onward and upward, which is usually used in the context of progress or success.

Example: If we don’t keep moving onward and innovating, we’ll never be able to compete in this market.

Where does onward come from?

The first records of the word onward in its modern sense come from the 1300s. The suffix -ward indicates a direction based on the first part of the word. It’s used in several other common words that indicate direction of movement through space or time, such as toward, forward, backward, and afterward.

Sometimes, onward can be used in the same way as on—travel onward, travel on, move onward, move on, go onward, and go on can all mean just about the same thing. Still, -ward helps to emphasize direction and movement. In the case of onward, this movement is usually toward a goal or completion of a task. When used in the context of travel toward a destination, it can sound a bit formal or poetic. But such expressions can be used metaphorically—to journey onward can literally mean to continue traveling or it can mean to keep making progress toward a goal.

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What are some other forms related to onward?

What are some synonyms for onward?

What are some words that share a root or word element with onward

What are some words that often get used in discussing onward?


How is onward used in real life?

Onward is used less commonly than similar words like forward or ahead. It’s often associated with progress and success, especially when it’s used in the common expression onward and upward.



Try using onward!

True or False? 

When onward is used as an adverb, it can be used interchangeably with onwards.

How to use onward in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for onward

/ (ˈɒnwəd) /

directed or moving forwards, onwards, etc
a variant of onwards
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