\ 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

The onus will be on Miller and Chubb to provide the off-the-edge chaos. Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, "A little bit more from Von Miler could produce bigger results for Broncos," 2 Sep. 2019 The onus is on everyone to get better with information. Gwen Moran, Fortune, "We’re in a Data Literacy Crisis. Could Librarians Be the Superheroes We Need?," 31 Aug. 2019 So the onus is on the consumer to read the fine print and independently insure their items. Chabeli Herrera, orlandosentinel.com, "An Orlando bank lost her jewels. She sued and lost. And then they turned up — at an auction," 28 Aug. 2019 The onus isn't on the insurance company to stop the criminal, that's not their mission. Ars Technica, "The Extortion Economy: Insurance companies and the rise in ransomware attacks," 27 Aug. 2019 The onus isn’t on the insurance company to stop the criminal, that’s not their mission. Renee Dudley, ProPublica, "The Extortion Economy: How Insurance Companies Are Fueling a Rise in Ransomware Attacks," 27 Aug. 2019 The onus is on the rap impresario to prove that this deal with his Roc Nation company, which includes advising the NFL on musical acts, will foster meaningful change on the social justice front. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "Backing down just isn’t part of Eric Reid’s game," 23 Aug. 2019 The onus is largely on companies to take initiative and close the pay gap once and for all. Halley Bondy, NBC News, "9 ways African-American women can get the pay they deserve," 22 Aug. 2019 The onus will then be on the school to best determine how to deploy us. Nick Sortal, sun-sentinel.com, "My plan to support three Plantation schools | Opinion," 2 Aug. 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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Last Updated

17 Sep 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 make a temporary encampment

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