Meaning of ON in English

I. (|)ȯn, (|)än, in the southeastern US sometimes (|)ōn preposition

Etymology: Middle English, preposition & adverb, fr Old English an, on, preposition & adverb; akin to Old High German ana, preposition & adverb, on, at, Old Norse ā, preposition & adverb, Gothic ana, preposition & adverb, on, at, Latin an- (in anhelare to pant) Greek ana, prep & adverb, up, on, Sanskrit ann, preposition & adverb, after


a. — used as a function word to indicate position over and in contact with that which supports from beneath

the book is on the table

was built on an island

kept his hands on the desk

b. — used as a function word to indicate presence within

rode there on a train

booked passage on an ocean liner

c. — used as a function word to indicate situation along a whole surface

a streak on the wall running from top to bottom

or at any particular point on a surface

there wasn't a mark on it

or to indicate situation at the projecting usually supporting edge or point or end of something

their clothes hung on a couple of nails in the wall

or situation inside of something (as clothing) worn by or covering the principal object of attention

found a knife on him

2. — used as a function word to indicate contiguity or dependence; especially (1) contact and support from elsewhere than beneath

a fly on the ceiling

hanging on the wall

(2) location closely adjoining something

a town situated on the river

or location very near some point of a narrowly extended area (as a street)

lives on the principal street of the town

(3) imminence or beginning (as of some action or activity)

the storm is on us

(4) connection or employment or activity with or in or with regard to something

works on the committee

is now on the third problem

will be on duty

has long been successful on the stage

(5) engagement in doing something

are now on a tour around the country

(6) source or support or basis on which something (as an action, opinion) turns or rests

learned it on good authority

his reliance on her

will do it on one condition


a. — used as a function word to indicate position with regard to place, direction, or time; especially (1) position with regard to a point of the compass

on the west are rolling plains

(2) position near a specified part of something

on the side of the house is a garden

(3) occurrence during the course of a specified day

will see them on Monday

or of some other divisions of time

said she would write on the morrow

or at a set time

trains leave here every hour on the hour

(4) occurrence at the same time as or following or as a result of something

will send a check on receipt of the book

will do it on your arrival

was uneasy on arriving home and finding no one there

b. — used as a function word to indicate location in or progress along something taken as a standard

is on the right road

a boat keeping on course


a. — used as a function word to indicate involvement in a specified condition

the house is on fire

beer on tap

merchandise on sale

or process

business is on an upturn

b. — used as a function word to indicate participation in a condition of privilege

has been on sick leave

or subjection to a condition of restriction

is on probation

5. — used as a function word to indicate manner

did it on the sly

cut it on the bias

6. — used as a function word to indicate the object of action or motion; especially (1) the object of action or motion coming especially down from above so as to touch or strike the surface or cover the upper part

watched the rain fall on the earth

put a lid on the jar

(2) the object of action or motion directed up to or against the object

crept up on him

marched on the ancient fortress

(3) the object of action or motion directed toward the object without actual physical contact

smiled on her

blamed it on them

was always bent on fighting

(4) the object of some emotion

had pity on them

or formality

served an injunction on him

or obligation

a charge on an overdue book

(5) the object in connection with which payment, computation of interest, reduction, or similar settlement is made

paid off a substantial sum on the mortgage

creditors received about 75 cents on the dollar

a rebate of 15 cents on a ton

an inroad on supplies


a. : with regard to : with reference or relation to : about

agreed on a price

a monopoly on wheat

a satire on society

at variance on what to do

b. chiefly dialect : of

be not jealous on me — Shakespeare

8. — used as a function word to indicate means or agency

cut her finger on a knife

playing the latest hits on the piano

heard it on the radio

9. — used as a function word to indicate reduplication or succession in a series

trouble on trouble followed his involvement with her

loss on loss

10. — used as a function word to indicate an object of reference; especially (1) an object having some advantage or disadvantage

is very talented but has nothing on her brother who is a real genius

his brother has two inches on him in reach

(2) an object subjected to expense or cost

drinks are on the house

the joke was on me

(3) an object that bears some stress or strain

long hours began to tell on him

(4) an object subjected to indicated annoyance

the fire went out on him

don't try to pull that on me

or discomfiture or some other unwanted or detrimental thing

II. adverb

Etymology: Middle English, preposition & adverb, from Old English an, on, preposition & adverb

1. : in or into the position of being in contact with the upper surface of something or of being supported from beneath by the upper surface

the plates are on

put a jazz recording on

2. : in or into the position of being attached to or covering a surface

has suspenders on

put a clean shirt on

keep your hat on



(1) : toward a point that lies ahead in space or time : forward , onward

spent a day there and then went on to the next town

from here on you'll need help

(2) : at a more advanced point in space or time

will do it later on

did not see her until well on in the evening

was well on in years

b. : with forward movement or action : in constant progression : without break : continuously

read on late into the night

spoke on without hesitation

slept peacefully on

c. : in succession : from one to another : in continuance

a tradition handed on through the centuries

pass the note on


a. : in or into action or operation

the radio was on

turn the lights on

: in or into a functioning state : in or into a state of activity

the water is on

the electricity finally came on

b. : in or into a position designed to set something into action or otherwise produce some activity

the light switch is on

had a large fish on

: in or into an operative position

the brake is on

5. : in or into the process of doing something : in or into engagement in some function or activity

two speeches had already been given and he was told he would be on next

has worked two nights and will also be on tomorrow night

a well-known star will be on in the role when the show opens


a. : with an indicated part turned toward a point of contact, approach, or observation

the two cars smashed together head on

the boats collided bows on

b. : with direction toward something

didn't want to play but preferred simply to look on

7. : in a condition of being decided upon or planned for or regarded as something that must be done

has nothing particular on for tonight

8. : in or into a state of being aware of something

wasn't on to what had happened

: in or into a knowledgeable state about something

quickly got on to what they were trying to do

— usually used with to

9. : in a state of being willing to participate in something

told them about the plan and asked if they were on

10. printing : up

printed eight on

11. : on base in baseball

III. adjective

1. cricket : that sends the ball to the on

an on hit

an on drive

2. cricket : that is on the on side of the wicket

an on stroke

3. : permitted to flow by means of an opened valve or closed switch : flowing

the water was on

IV. noun

( -s )

: the side of the wicket on which a batsman stands in the game of cricket or the corresponding side of the field — compare off ; see cricket illustration

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.