oner·​ous | \ˈä-nə-rəs, ˈō- \

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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web

However, when President Trump took office, the Auto Alliance (which represents BMW Group, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Toyota, and others) began complaining that the rules were onerous and extremely costly. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Challenge to EPA’s fuel economy rollback can move ahead, court says," 24 Nov. 2018 Apple is suing it in multiple locations over onerous licensing fees, while Qualcomm has already been fined in South Korea, Taiwan, the European Union, and China for issues related to anti-competitive licensing practices. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "Qualcomm must license patents to competing chipmakers, court rules," 6 Nov. 2018 TPG’s exit from Chobani closes a deal that was profitable for the private equity firm, but onerous, if necessary, for the yogurt maker. David Gelles, New York Times, "Chobani, the Greek Yogurt Maker, Reclaims Control of Its Finances," 28 June 2018 The Padres no longer have onerous contracts to shed. Dennis Lin,, "Brad Hand continuing to draw interest, but no deal imminent," 14 July 2017 The changes were so onerous and came with so little notice that a federal appeals court in August allowed Phoenix officials to revert to previous flight patterns. Mary Shanklin,, "Orlando airport noise likely to shift paths — complaints too," 25 Feb. 2018 However, the version of the tax that the City Council agreed to on Monday will be far less onerous than the draft that led Amazon to suspend construction on a new office tower in a not-so-subtle threat over providing further employment in Seattle. David Meyer, Fortune, "Amazon 'Questions' Its Growth In Seattle After City Passes Watered-Down Tax to Help Homeless," 15 May 2018 Men are often presented as bumbling babysitters instead of caretakers — that onerous task nearly always falls on the mother., "The Movies That Get Fatherhood All Wrong — & The Ones That Get It Right," 13 June 2018 The lawsuit filed Tuesday also made public for the first time the onerous terms of the full two-part contract, which Clifford signed on Oct. 28, 2016 — days before the presidential election. Author: Rebecca R. Ruiz, Matt Stevens, Anchorage Daily News, "Stormy Daniels sues Trump, claiming he never signed ‘hush agreement’," 7 Mar. 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for onerous

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for onerous

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

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More Definitions for onerous



English Language Learners Definition of onerous

: difficult and unpleasant to do or deal with


oner·​ous | \ˈä-nə-rəs, 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- \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on onerous

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with onerous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for onerous

Spanish Central: Translation of onerous

Nglish: Translation of onerous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of onerous for Arabic Speakers

Comments on onerous

What made you want to look up onerous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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