Definition for ON

ON, prep. [G. an; D. aan; Goth. ana; Gr. ανω; L. in; Gr. εν. The Sax. in is our in, and un is a negative; but probably all these words are radically the same. The primary sense of the verb from which these words must be derived, is to pass, to approach, to come to or to meet. Hence they denote nearness, closeness or contiguity, and from meeting the Latin in and the English un have their power of negation or opposing.]

  1. Being in contact with the surface or upper part of a thing and supported by it; placed or lying in contact with the surface; as, my book is on the table; the table stands on the floor; the house rests on its foundation; we lie on a bed, or stand on the earth.
  2. Coming or falling to the surface of any thing; as, rain falls on the earth. Whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken. Matth. xxi.
  3. Performing or acting by contact with the surface, upper part or outside of any thing; as, to play on a harp, a violin, or a drum.
  4. Noting addition; as, heaps on heaps; mischief on mischief; loss on loss.
  5. At or near. When we say, a vessel is on shore, we mean that she is aground; but when we say, a fleet or a ship is on the American coast, or an isle is situated on the coast of England, we mean only that it is near the coast. So we say, on each side stands an armed man, that is, at or near each side. So we say, Philadelphia is situated on the Delaware; Middlebury is on the Otter Creek; Guilford stands on the Sound; that is, near the river or sound, instead of on the bank, side or shore.
  6. It denotes resting for support; as, to depend on, to rely on; hence, the ground of any thing; as, he will covenant on certain considerations or conditions; the considerations being the support of the covenant.
  7. At or in the time of; as, on the sabbath we abstain from labor. We usually say, at the hour, on or in the day, in or on the week, month or year.
  8. At the time of, with some reference to cause or motive. On public occasions, the officers appear in full dress or uniform.
  9. It is put before the object of some passion, with the sense of toward or for. Have pity or compassion on him.
  10. At the peril of, or for the safety of. Hence, on thy life. Dryden.
  11. Denoting a pledge or engagement, or put before the thing pledged. He affirmed or promised on his word, or on his honor.
  12. Noting imprecation or invocation, or coming to, falling or resting on. On us be all the blame. His blood be on us, and on our children. Matth. xxvii.
  13. In consequence of, or immediately after. On the ratification of the treaty, the armies were disbanded.
  14. Noting part, distinction or opposition; as, on one side and on the other. On our part, expect punctuality. On the way, on the road, denote proceeding, traveling, journeying, or making progress. On the alert, in a state of vigilance or activity. On high, in an elevated place; sublimely. On fire, in a state of burning or inflammation, and metaphorically, in a rage or passion. On a sudden, suddenly. On the wing, in flight; flying; metaphorically, departing. On it, on't, is used for of it. I heard nothing on't. The gamester has a poor trade on't. [This use is now vulgar.] Upon is used in the same sense with on, often with elegance, and frequently without necessity or advantage.

Return to page 25 of the letter “O”.