oner·​ous | \ ˈä-nə-rəs How to pronounce onerous (audio) , ˈō- How to pronounce onerous (audio) \

Definition of onerous

1 : involving, imposing, or constituting a burden : troublesome an onerous task onerous regulations an onerous mortgage
2 : having legal obligations that outweigh the advantages an onerous contract

Other Words from onerous

onerously adverb
onerousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for onerous

onerous, burdensome, oppressive, exacting mean imposing hardship. onerous stresses being laborious and heavy especially because distasteful. the onerous task of cleaning up the mess burdensome suggests causing mental as well as physical strain. burdensome responsibilities oppressive implies extreme harshness or severity in what is imposed. the oppressive tyranny of a police state exacting implies rigor or sternness rather than tyranny or injustice in the demands made or in the one demanding. an exacting employer

What is the Difference Between onerous, burdensome, oppressive?

Onerous, which traces back to the Latin onus, meaning "burden," has several synonyms. Like onerous, burdensome, oppressive, and exacting all refer to something which imposes a hardship of some kind. Onerous stresses a sense of laboriousness and heaviness, especially because something is distasteful ("the onerous task of cleaning up the mess"). Burdensome suggests something which causes mental as well as physical strain ("the burdensome responsibilities of being a supervisor"). Oppressive implies extreme harshness or severity in what is imposed ("the oppressive tyranny of a police state"). Exacting suggests rigor or sternness rather than tyranny or injustice in the demands made or in the one demanding ("an exacting employer who requires great attention to detail").

Examples of onerous in a Sentence

Then everyone was asked, how fairly did you act?, from "extremely unfairly" (1) to "extremely fairly" (7). Next they watched someone else make the assignments, and judged that person's ethics. Selflessness was a virtual no-show: 87 out of 94 people opted for the easy task and gave the next guy the onerous one. — Sharon Begley, Newsweek, 23 June 2008 The first hitch occurred when the state education department took a full six months after the new law was adopted to issue 12 pages of onerous rules and regulations governing Arkansas charter schools. — Wendy Cole, Time, 10 June 2000 Environmentalism poses stark issues of survival, for humankind and for all those other tribes of creatures over which we have exercised our onerous dominion. — Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam, 1998 Rap tested well, but early on the promoters said they wouldn't be booking any gangsta rap, a move at least partly designed to calm security concerns during the onerous process of complying with the strict mass-gathering laws enacted in the wake of the 1969 festival. — John Milward, Rolling Stone, 11 Aug. 1994 The government imposed onerous taxes on imports. had the onerous and stressful job of notifying the families of soldiers killed in action See More
Recent Examples on the Web Tax filing for crypto users can be extremely onerous, and Gillibrand and Lummis’s bill attempts to help ease those difficulties. Andrew R. Chow, Time, 7 June 2022 The many steps are onerous, and must be undertaken by a magician whose mind is settled and fixed upon his work, on the day and at the hour of the planet involved, in a fortunate place, and during fair weather. Kent Russell, Harper’s Magazine , 25 May 2022 But the resettlement program in the U.S. was decimated by Trump-era budget cuts and restrictions that refugee advocates said were onerous. Luke Barr, ABC News, 21 Apr. 2022 Speech rules are even more onerous in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey. NBC News, 15 Apr. 2022 The cost to repair it was onerous, and Hilton had no option but to junk it. Susan Orlean, The New Yorker, 30 Mar. 2022 Qualifying will not be as onerous for the 2026 World Cup, which expands to 48 nations. Ron Blum, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Mar. 2022 Gas prices are especially onerous for drivers, averaging over $4.20 a gallon. Alicia Adamczyk, Fortune, 25 Mar. 2022 The cost of cybersecurity is particularly onerous for smaller businesses and vendors. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 22 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'onerous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of onerous

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for onerous

Middle English, from Middle French honereus, from Latin onerosus, from oner-, onus burden; akin to Sanskrit anas cart

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The first known use of onerous was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

12 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Onerous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for onerous


oner·​ous | \ ˈä-nə-rəs How to pronounce onerous (audio) , ˈō- \

Kids Definition of onerous

: being difficult and unpleasant to do or to deal with "… do you never find your duties onerous or irksome?"— E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan


oner·​ous | \ ˈä-nə-rəs, ˈō- How to pronounce onerous (audio) \

Legal Definition of onerous

1 : excessively burdensome or costly
2 : involving a return benefit, compensation, or consideration an onerous donation used chiefly in the civil law of Louisiana — see also onerous contract at contract — compare gratuitous

More from Merriam-Webster on onerous

Nglish: Translation of onerous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of onerous for Arabic Speakers


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