Etymology 1

From Middle English on, from Old English on, an (on, upon, onto, in, into), from Proto-Germanic *ana (on, at), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂en-. Cognate with North Frisian a (on, in), Saterland Frisian an (on, at), West Frisian oan (on, at), Dutch aan (on, at, to), Low German an (on, at), German an (to, at, on), Swedish å (on, at, in), Faroese á (on, onto, in, at), Icelandic á (on, in), Gothic 𐌰𐌽𐌰 (ana), Ancient Greek ἀνά (aná, up, upon), Albanian (in); and from Old Norse upp á: Danish , Swedish , Norwegian , see upon.


on (not comparable)

  1. In the state of being active, functioning or operating.
  2. Performing according to schedule.
    Are we still on for tonight?
    Is the show still on?
  3. (chiefly Britain, informal, usually negative) Acceptable, appropriate.
    You can't do that; it's just not on.
    • 1998 May 22, "Phoenix Gamma", If I was owned Nintendo..., alt.games.video.nintendo-64:
      This kind of over-packaging of goods is completely not on.
    • 2003 August 12, "DAB sounds worse than FM", Gerg Dyke's Speech at Radio Festival, alt.radio.digital:
      [] , so Simon Nelson saying on Feedback "we'd prefer it if everybody listened to digital radio via DAB" is completely not on at all.
  4. (informal) Destined, normally in the context of a challenge being accepted; involved, doomed.
    "Five bucks says the Cavs win tonight." ―"You're on!"
    Mike just threw coffee onto Paul's lap. It's on now.
  5. (baseball, informal) Having reached a base as a runner and being positioned there, awaiting further action from a subsequent batter.
    • 2019 February 24, Chris Kennedy, “Aggies Earn Series Win Over Yale in Sunday Finale”, in New Mexico State University Athletics[1]:
      With one out and no men on, Tristen Carranza belted a ball to the opposite field for a solo home run to put the NM State deficit at just 2-1.
    • 2019 April 6, Daniel Martinez-Krams, “Baseball Falls Short in Game 2 of UCLA Series”, in The Stanford Daily[2]:
      Although Stanford was outhit 15-6, the Cardinal stranded eight runners to UCLA's three, hitting just 3-15 with runners on compared to the Bruin's 9-22.
  6. (euphemistic) Menstruating.
    • 2011, Netmums, Hollie Smith, You and Your Tween: Managing the years from 9 to 13, Hachette UK →ISBN
      It still gets in the way of her doing things like swimming, and she avoids sleepovers when she's 'on'.
  • (baseball: positioned at a base): on base (not informal)


on (not comparable)

  1. To an operating state.
    turn the television on
  2. Along, forwards (continuing an action).
    drive on, rock on
    • 2012 May 5, Phil McNulty, “Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool”, in BBC Sport[3]:
      He met Luis Suarez's cross at the far post, only for Chelsea keeper Petr Cech to show brilliant reflexes to deflect his header on to the bar. Carroll turned away to lead Liverpool's insistent protests that the ball had crossed the line but referee Phil Dowd and assistant referee Andrew Garratt waved play on, with even a succession of replays proving inconclusive.
  3. In continuation, at length.
    and so on.
    He rambled on and on.
  4. (cricket) In, or towards the half of the field on the same side as the batsman's legs; the left side for a right-handed batsman; leg. (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  5. (obsolete in the US) Later.
    Ten years on, nothing had changed in the village.


A green pepper on (positioned on the upper surface of) a box


  1. Positioned at the upper surface of, touching from above.
    on the table;  on the couch
    The parrot was sitting on Jim's shoulder.
    • Longfellow
      I stood on the bridge at midnight.
  2. At or near; adjacent to.
    Soon we'll pass a statue on the left.
    The fleet is on the American coast.
  3. Covering.
    He wore old shoes on his feet.
  4. At the date of.
    Born on the 4th of July.
  5. Some time during the day of.
    I'll see you on Monday.   The bus leaves on Friday.   Can I see you on a different day? On Sunday I'm busy.
  6. Dealing with the subject of, about, or concerning something.
    A book on history.   The World Summit on the Information Society.
    • 1868, Anthony Trollope, He Knew He Was Right XI:
      ‘I received a note from that gentleman on a most trivial matter. I answered it as trivially.’
  7. Touching; hanging from.
    The fruit ripened on the trees.   The painting hangs on the wall.
  8. (informal) In the possession of.
    I haven't got any money on me.
  9. Because of, or due to.
    To arrest someone on suspicion of bribery.   To contact someone on a hunch.
  10. Upon; at the time of (and often because of).
    On Jack's entry, William got up to leave.
    On the addition of ammonia, a chemical reaction begins.
  11. Paid for by.
    The drinks are on me tonight, boys.   The meal is on the house.   I paid for the airfare and meals for my family, but the hotel room was on the company.
  12. Used to indicate a means or medium.
    I saw it on television.   Can't you see I'm on the phone?
  13. Indicating a means of subsistence.
    They lived on ten dollars a week.   The dog survived three weeks on rainwater.
  14. Away or occupied with (e.g. a scheduled activity).
    He's on his lunch break.   on vacation;  on holiday
  15. Denoting performance or action by contact with the surface, upper part, or outside of anything; hence, by means of; with.
    to play on a violin or piano
    Her words made a lasting impression on my mind.
  16. Regularly taking (a drug).
    You've been on these antidepressants far too long.   He's acting so strangely, I think he must be on something.
  17. Under the influence of (a drug).
    He's acting crazy because he's on crack right now.
  18. (mathematics) Having identical domain and codomain.
    a function on
  19. (mathematics) Having as domain and V as codomain, for some set V and integer n.
    an operator on
  20. (mathematics) Generated by.
    the free group on four letters
  21. Supported by (the specified part of itself).
    A table can't stand on two legs.   After resting on his elbows, he stood on his toes, then walked on his heels.
  22. At a given time after the start of something; at.
    • 2011 September 24, Aled Williams, “Chelsea 4-1 Swansea”, in BBC Sport:
      The Spain striker had given Chelsea the lead on 29 minutes but was shown a straight red card 10 minutes later for a rash challenge on Mark Gower.
  23. In addition to; besides; indicating multiplication or succession in a series.
    heaps on heaps of food
    mischief on mischief; loss on loss
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  24. (obsolete, regional) of
    • Shakespeare
      Be not jealous on me.
    • Shakespeare
      Or have we eaten on the insane root / That takes the reason prisoner?
  25. Indicating dependence or reliance; with confidence in.
    I depended on them for assistance.
    He will promise on certain conditions.
    Do you ever bet on horses?
  26. Toward; for; indicating the object of an emotion.
    Have pity or compassion on him.
  27. (obsolete) At the peril of, or for the safety of.
    • Dryden
      Hence, on thy life.
  28. In the service of; connected with; of the number of.
    He is on a newspaper; I am on the committee.
  29. By virtue of; with the pledge of.
    He affirmed or promised on his word, or on his honour.
  30. To the account or detriment of; denoting imprecation or invocation, or coming to, falling, or resting upon.
    On us be all the blame.
    A curse on him!
    Please don't tell on her and get her in trouble.
    He turned on her and has been her enemy ever since.
    He went all honest on me, making me listen to his confession.
    • Bible, Matthew xxvii. 25
      His blood be on us and on our children.
  31. (especially when numbers of combatants or competitors are specified) Against; in opposition to.
    The fight was three on one, and he never stood a chance.
Derived terms
Related terms
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


on (third-person singular simple present ons, present participle oning, simple past and past participle oned)

  1. (transitive, Singapore, Philippines) to switch on
    Can you on the light?
    Synonym: turn on

Etymology 2

From Old Norse ón, án (without), from Proto-Germanic *ēnu, *ēno, *ino (without), from Proto-Indo-European *anew, *enew (without). Cognate with North Frisian on (without), Middle Dutch an, on (without), Middle Low German āne (without), German ohne (without), Gothic 𐌹𐌽𐌿 (inu, without, except), Ancient Greek ἄνευ (áneu, without).

Alternative forms



  1. (Britain dialectal, Scotland) Without.
Usage notes
  • Usually followed by a perfect participle, as being, having, etc.

Etymology 3

From Japanese 音読み (on-yomi, literally sound reading).



  1. In the Japanese language, a pronunciation, or reading, of a kanji character that was originally based on the character's pronunciation in Chinese, contrasted with kun.
    Most kanji have two kinds of reading, called "on" and "kun".


Other Languages
Afrikaans: on
العربية: on
asturianu: on
azərbaycanca: on
bosanski: on
brezhoneg: on
català: on
čeština: on
corsu: on
Cymraeg: on
dansk: on
Deutsch: on
eesti: on
Ελληνικά: on
español: on
Esperanto: on
euskara: on
فارسی: on
français: on
Gaeilge: on
Gàidhlig: on
한국어: on
հայերեն: on
hrvatski: on
Ido: on
Bahasa Indonesia: on
Interlingue: on
íslenska: on
italiano: on
ಕನ್ನಡ: on
қазақша: on
kurdî: on
Кыргызча: on
Latina: on
latviešu: on
Lëtzebuergesch: on
lietuvių: on
Limburgs: on
magyar: on
Malagasy: on
മലയാളം: on
မြန်မာဘာသာ: on
Nāhuatl: on
Na Vosa Vakaviti: on
Nederlands: on
日本語: on
norsk: on
norsk nynorsk: on
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: on
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: on
ភាសាខ្មែរ: on
polski: on
português: on
русский: on
shqip: on
sicilianu: on
Simple English: on
slovenčina: on
slovenščina: on
српски / srpski: on
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: on
suomi: on
svenska: on
தமிழ்: on
తెలుగు: on
ไทย: on
тоҷикӣ: on
ᏣᎳᎩ: on
Türkçe: on
Türkmençe: on
українська: on
اردو: on
vèneto: on
Tiếng Việt: on
Volapük: on
walon: on
中文: on