\ 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

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 Biden’s speech may or may not make a difference with senators waffling on whether to change the rules, but the onus is still on lawmakers to pass voting rights legislation. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 11 Jan. 2022 The onus is on the folks who are running fitness spaces and who are maybe in the societally acceptable body type associated with fitness. Marie Southard Ospina, SELF, 11 Jan. 2022 The onus is on them to fill those forms out and return them to us. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Jan. 2022 Moreover, the onus is not on investors to ferret out the half-truths in executives' representations. Jessica A. Roth For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, 4 Jan. 2022 So, fatigue can be a real thing, and the onus is on the digital leaders to manage the pace, energies and continued expectations. Prasanna Singaraju, Forbes, 29 Dec. 2021 It’s always an active process of creating the future, but the onus is on us. Jackson Mchenry, Vulture, 24 Dec. 2021 Military regulations had required the services and units to self-report losses; the onus will now be on the highest level of the Pentagon. Kristin M. Hall And Justin Pritchard, Anchorage Daily News, 22 Dec. 2021 Neither team runs the ball great, so the onus should be on the two playmaking quarterbacks. Los Angeles Times, 15 Dec. 2021

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

15 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Onus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/onus. Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for onus



English Language Learners Definition of onus

: the responsibility for something

More from Merriam-Webster on onus

Nglish: Translation of onus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of onus for Arabic Speakers


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