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

Definition of onus

1 [ Latin — more at onerous ]

a : burden
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

The declaration puts the onus on Chevron to raise its price or walk away from its deal for Anadarko, whose acreage in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico is coveted by both potential buyers as a path to further expansion. ... Cara Lombardo, WSJ, "Anadarko to Resume Talks With Occidental on Buyout Bid," 29 Apr. 2019 The increase in tips also has put the onus on whistleblowers and their attorneys to present better evidence of their claims at the outset, according to Mr. Kohn, who is also a whistleblower attorney at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP. Kristin Broughton, WSJ, "SEC Grants $50 Million Award to Two JPMorgan Whistleblowers," 28 Mar. 2019 When 123 of your franchise-record 148 penalty yards come after halftime, the onus doesn’t fall on the kicker. Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times, "What was that, Sebastian Janikowski? Decision not to tackle 49ers returner costly in Seahawks loss," 17 Dec. 2018 The White House appears to want that onus to fall somewhere else. Li Zhou, Vox, "A running list of everyone the FBI has interviewed in the Kavanaugh investigation so far," 3 Oct. 2018 Telesco said the onus doesn’t fall on him to go overboard, though. Conor Orr, SI.com, "How Teams Interview Top Quarterback Prospects," 18 Apr. 2018 That puts the onus on GE to adapt its debt to the cash flows that remain once the asset sales are complete, Mr. Lipsch wrote. Nina Trentmann, WSJ, "GE’s Asset Sales Bode Well for Balance Sheet," 26 Feb. 2019 After the allegations of peddling her looks to Fashion Nova, Kim took to Twitter to defend herself, putting the onus on fast fashion companies. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Is Kim Kardashian Helping Fast Fashion Sites Knock Off Her Designer Looks?," 20 Feb. 2019 The onus should never be on a potential victim (or their friends) to avoid an assault. Natasha Lavender, SELF, "What to Do if Your Friend Is Passed Out Drunk," 26 Feb. 2019

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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Statistics for onus

Last Updated

11 May 2019

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Time Traveler for onus

The first known use of onus was in 1626

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More Definitions for onus



English Language Learners Definition of onus

formal : the responsibility for something

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More from Merriam-Webster on onus

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with onus

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for onus

Spanish Central: Translation of onus

Nglish: Translation of onus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of onus for Arabic Speakers

Comments on onus

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


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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