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

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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 For America’s legions of smaller online trinket-sellers, app-makers or other firms present on the internet the Californian law will be onerous. The Economist, "The data sheriffs Companies should take California’s new data-privacy law seriously," 18 Dec. 2019 Critics of work requirements say the implementation plan in Ohio is less onerous than those in other states. Laura Hancock, cleveland, "Planned Ohio Medicaid work requirements call for case workers to contact recipients before they’re cut off," 29 Oct. 2019 But one regulatory worry peculiar to companies in China has stayed the same—or possibly become even more onerous. Jane Li, Quartz, "Alibaba reminds investors China’s censorship regime is a business risk," 14 Nov. 2019 The more the government tries to plug its shortfall, the more onerous for large firms to deal with smaller suppliers. Andy Mukherjee | Bloomberg, Washington Post, "Putting on the Squeeze Won’t Tame India’s Twin Crises," 2 Nov. 2019 Significant changes to the Max could also have required the more onerous approval for a new plane, rather than the streamlined certification process for a derivative model., "It is unclear what, if any, assessment investigators have made of the complaint.," 3 Oct. 2019 Israel places onerous security restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank that prevent many from traveling abroad, visiting friends and family in Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "It's Israel's election but here's why Donald Trump is the 'King of Israel'," 16 Sep. 2019 Either of those channels could produce more onerous (legislation) that impedes or stops oil and gas drilling. John Aguilar, The Denver Post, "No slumping in pumping despite strictures in Colorado’s new oil and gas law," 19 Aug. 2019 As Jackson predicted this offseason, his rushing workload this season has not been onerous. Jonas Shaffer,, "Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson for NFL MVP? The Ravens’ young star has the early edge — barely.," 21 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for onerous

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

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Last Updated

5 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Onerous.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for onerous


How to pronounce onerous (audio) How to pronounce onerous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of onerous

formal : difficult and unpleasant to do or deal with


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

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More from Merriam-Webster on onerous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for onerous

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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