\ ˈō-nəs How to pronounce onus (audio) \

Definition of onus

1 [Latin — more at onerous]
b : a disagreeable necessity : obligation
c : blame
d : stigma
2 [New Latin onus (probandi), literally, burden of proving] : burden of proof put forth a theory that left the onus squarely on him

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Did You Know?

Understanding the etymology of onus is not at all burdensome; it's as simple as knowing that English borrowed the word - spelling, meaning, and all - from Latin in the 17th century. We can also add that it's a distant relative of the Sanskrit word for "cart" (a vehicle that carries a burden). English isn't exactly loaded with derivatives of Latin onus, but the root did give us "onerous" ("troublesome") and "exonerate" ("to clear from accusation or blame" - thus, "to unburden"). Additionally, our legal language has "onus probandi," which is often shortened to "onus." It means "burden of proof" - that is, the obligation of proving a disputed assertion in a court of law.

Examples of onus in a Sentence

Consumers should be able to limit the use of information beyond what's essential to complete a transaction. There are two principal ways to do this: Web sites can permit them to "opt in," or explicitly grant advance permission to share information. Or they can put the onus on consumers to "opt out" if they don't want information shared. Consumer Reports, May 2000 These laws got the regulatory ball rolling, but the onus was on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that additives were safe. — Amy Rosenbaum Clark, Vegetarian Times, March 1995 It is not the scions of Yale and Harvard who apply to become FBI agents and construction workers and civil servants and cops who bear the onus of this reverse discrimination. — Thomas B. Edsall, Washington Post, 9-15 Mar. 1992 hoping to avoid the onus of failure by lowering expectations ahead of time he perpetually tries to shift the onus for any mistakes onto other team members
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Recent Examples on the Web And while the onus may be on major retailers like Sephora and Macy’s—both of which have taken the pledge—to support these businesses year round, shopping thoughtfully as an individual can still make a major difference. Lale Arikoglu, Condé Nast Traveler, "Aurora James Made a Gift Guide Spotlighting Over 50 Black-Owned Businesses," 15 Dec. 2020 The onus, Levitsky said, is on Republicans in Congress to assure the public that the election was legitimate. Rob Kuznia, CNN, "Stop the Steal's massive disinformation campaign connected to Roger Stone," 13 Nov. 2020 But the onus is still on users to do so, and there is no way for users to make their contacts list private. Sara Harrison For The Markup, CNN Underscored, "How private is my pay app?," 12 Nov. 2020 This puts the onus on players to motivate themselves, which, in no-stakes exhibitions, is a tricky task. Connor Letourneau, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors brace for playing without fans at Chase Center," 11 Dec. 2020 The goal is to make the defense wrong and puts the onus on the middle linebacker to play with patience and the outside linebackers or nickel DB to come up and make a tackle. Jeff Nowak, NOLA.com, "Who is Jalen Hurts? Here's what Saints could see from Eagles' new QB in Week 14," 11 Dec. 2020 But even a small hurdle or waiting period puts the onus of unlocking on the customer rather than on the company. Boone Ashworth, Wired, "The US Could Soon Ban the Selling of Carrier-Locked Phones," 20 Nov. 2020 The absence of a federal standard has led to a patchwork of local restrictions, which industry officials say puts the onus on travelers to research what is expected of them at their destination. Kristen Leigh Painter, Star Tribune, "Next week could be busiest for airports in pandemic, but still not that busy," 19 Nov. 2020 Cristobal puts the onus on the offense for its turnovers rather than the defense for not having any yet. oregonlive, "The third FBS team in 8 years to start 2-0 with minus-5 turnover margin, Oregon Ducks aiming to even the scales," 18 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'onus.' 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 onus

1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Last Updated

28 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Onus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/onus. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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How to pronounce onus (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of onus

formal : the responsibility for something

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