Definition of once in English:



  • 1On one occasion or for one time only.

    ‘they deliver once a week’
    informal ‘he'd only met her the once’
    • ‘Lord Lansdowne said the estate has only covered its losses once in the past 13 years.’
    • ‘Limited tickets are still available for this once in a lifetime opportunity.’
    • ‘They have done this once - who can say that they will not try again?’
    • ‘Anyone who'd seen the news even once in the past few years knew war would happen soon.’
    • ‘The study found the majority of consumers have bought products at least once in the past year because they were on promotion.’
    • ‘The defeat means Sweden have still only once been past the second round stage since 1974.’
    • ‘Only once in the past 11 seasons have Everton finished in the top half of the upper echelons of the English game.’
    • ‘And really, I only have to do this once a year, so I am only losing one Sunday out of a possible 52.’
    • ‘I'm only going to say this once: there are obviously more stirring things to read in the weeklies.’
    • ‘I have already written about this once on my website and I can assure you I will be doing so again tomorrow.’
    • ‘I've seen something like this once before but it's certainly not something you come across everyday.’
    • ‘We must all have wardrobes wherein hang dresses three sizes too small and jackets worn once in the past decade.’
    • ‘More than once Walt has caught her talking to herself when in fact she was speaking to Fred.’
    • ‘Her daughter has only been to school only once in the past two weeks.’
    • ‘Instead of delivering twice a day, including in the morning, it now delivers once, at lunchtime.’
    • ‘Only once in the past seven years have the club ended a top-flight campaign among the first five.’
    • ‘I had done this once before and managed it OK, but today I got tired about two thirds of the way round and had to walk.’
    • ‘I was sure I'd done this once, and it appears to have not worked, so I've done it again.’
    • ‘But after hearing that he had breached the conditions once in the past the judge decided not to alter where he is to live.’
    • ‘I've only seen it once in the past year at 2 in the morning and I remember watching it as a child.’
    on one occasion, one time, one single time
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1On even one occasion; at all (used for emphasis)
      ‘he never once complained’
      ‘if she once got an idea in her head you'd never move it’
      • ‘Nona's response was to convince herself that Faith had never existed and did not once visit her in the asylum.’
      • ‘He never once complained and was a favourite with every single member of the staff.’
      • ‘Otherwise, the game is remarkably stable - didn't crash once on my machine.’
      • ‘We were putting in a twelve hour day for absolutely zero pay, and we never once complained.’
      • ‘She knew how tired he must be after all that he'd endured, but he had not complained once.’
      • ‘Not once has my doctor ever bothered to ask me about what I eat or if I exercise.’
      • ‘Not once did he complain about me blocking his view even though I kept moving to look up.’
      • ‘Not once did he say anything about the things I was interested in.’
      • ‘They recognized that if they once conceded the moral principle, even in extreme cases, their legal position would become untenable.’
      • ‘By midday, Ashley was tired, hungry and her back was throbbing, but she never once complained.’
      • ‘His attention to detail was second to none and not once did anyone complain about his ability to tell it as it was.’
      ever, at any time, on any occasion, at all, under any circumstances, on any account, in a million years
      View synonyms
  • 2At some time in the past; formerly.

    ‘Gran had once been a famous singer’
    • ‘Now 70, he is an inveterate inventor, the kind that Britain was once famous for.’
    • ‘No longer can they exert the authority on major occasions that was once their hallmark.’
    • ‘I visited the once famous Micklegate run last Friday night and had a pint in the Firkin public house.’
    • ‘Montreal once had a famous family of peregrines living on the Sun Life building.’
    • ‘Last week, however, this once great company declared itself insolvent.’
    • ‘For this once booming town in the former Democratic Republic of Germany now has a more dubious claim to fame.’
    • ‘We strolled through a stone gateway, past high walls which once fully enclosed the complex.’
    • ‘City life has changed the face of this once quiet and residential area.’
    • ‘Think of someone who was once young and vital, now old, battered, semi-literate and living off the social.’
    • ‘What were once artists' homes now contain offices, flats and the headquarters of the German Arts Council.’
    • ‘Labels tell the public how to cook the food - this was once part of the of the family butcher's role.’
    • ‘I walked past the once crowded video rack which now contained only two items.’
    • ‘Let us know some of the songs, clothes and memories from your past which you once cherished.’
    • ‘The famous estate was once owned by the Viner family who sold it in 1966.’
    • ‘It was a strange and eerie feeling riding through the near deserted streets of this once great city that I had read and seen so many films about.’
    • ‘The field was once part of a terrace of the Whitton Dene manor house and it seems that the trouble began when it was filled in with material to even it out.’
    • ‘Violent death and loss have taken the life of this once powerful businessman - twisted it, broken it and turned it inside out.’
    • ‘Nowadays, this once controversial play is on the Irish school curriculum.’
    • ‘They were once citizens of the same country as Russians, and they share the same past and historical fate.’
    • ‘Post that was once delivered in just a day within the city now takes four to five days, old-timers note.’
    formerly, previously, in the past, at one time, at one point, once upon a time, on a former occasion, on one occasion, one time, in one case, time was when, in days gone by, in times gone by, back in the day, in times past, in the old days, in the good old days, long ago
    View synonyms
  • 3Multiplied by one.

    ‘once two is two’


  • As soon as; when.

    ‘once the grapes were pressed, the juice was put into barrels’
    • ‘Make no mistake, there are many who would love to see O'Leary fail and are waiting in the wings to pounce once things start to go wrong.’
    • ‘The date of commencement will be confirmed once people have indicated an interest in taking part.’
    • ‘But Eugenie says that once men have the know-how, they look wonderful dancing salsa.’
    • ‘But once drivers had cleared the roundabouts, they were able to make progress towards the coast.’
    • ‘I'll comment on this once I've had a chance to print it out on Monday.’
    • ‘But such a collection of dictators could become a tourist attraction once freedom comes to the country.’
    • ‘Thinner roots are planted horizontally in trays of compost and potted up individually once shoots have developed.’
    • ‘Most of the projects proved that once students put on their thinking caps, nothing could stop them!’
    • ‘It's nice looking, well made furniture and will look fantastic once it's been delivered in a few weeks.’
    • ‘In his experience employers in the Dublin area have had no problem with this once it was pointed out to them.’
    • ‘He says once people see better services start rolling out next year, they'll think the sale is a good thing.’
    • ‘Adriano soon wasted a chance but once Ghana overcame early stage fright they began to dominate.’
    • ‘But once people have children, few can ever be truly emotionally free again.’
    • ‘The day started at a quarter past six and once the cows were milked, the milk would go to the dairy.’
    • ‘The Echo will publish information on the community petition once details are finalised.’
    • ‘I will comment further on this once I have had a chance to fully digest it myself.’
    • ‘And who is there to offer support for the homeless once Christmas is over?’
    • ‘Sevenoaks Motor Club understood that once improvements had been finished it could resume racing in the park.’
    • ‘I challenge anyone to dispute this once they have accurate knowledge and some experience of what most councillors do.’
    • ‘Most went to the beach this afternoon once Joe had finished school.’
    as soon as, when, after, immediately after, the instant, the minute, the moment, the second
    View synonyms


  • all at once

    • 1Suddenly.

      ‘all at once the noise stopped’
      • ‘Through it all, he is optimistic that he can succeed, not all at once, but over time.’
      • ‘The experienced safari guides seem to have an innate empathy with the nature all around, and all at once you feel at ease.’
      • ‘But all at once, in the midst of his gay careless life came his tragedy; he fell in love with a hatter's wife.’
      • ‘The sounds struck her all at once, as if the volume on her ears had suddenly been turned up.’
      • ‘We were in the process of writing a new song and I knew all at once that these words would fit it perfectly.’
      • ‘Engineers preparing to replace the cables and computers discovered that the cables had degraded so much over the past 50 years that the work needed to be done all at once.’
      • ‘When he finally did put her words together, it hit him all at once like a ton of bricks.’
      • ‘The problem with most smokers is that they try giving up all at once.’
    • 2All at the same time.

      ‘a lot of beans are ready all at once’
      • ‘Add the bean sprouts all at once and leave for 20 seconds, then add the spring onions, stir well, and drain.’
      • ‘Set up a group list with all your buds' e-mail addresses, and write to them all at once.’
      • ‘I pointed to them and as she reached out to hand me a few, the picture of us suddenly made me want to laugh and cry all at once.’
      • ‘Everything was suddenly catching up with me all at once, and I could barely separate one realisation from the other.’
      • ‘Now it doesn't take much arithmetic to work out that you can't give a hot meal to 17 people all at once.’
      • ‘Daycare's about keeping everyone happy and busy and distracted all at once.’
      • ‘She was nervous and excited and anxious and hundreds of other things all at once.’
      • ‘Cost-wise, it makes sense to collect several updates together and release them all at once.’
      • ‘The dancers mix it up quite a bit, performing together all at once, as well as in trios, duos and solo pieces.’
      • ‘Twenty-two years of diving and never a sniff of one of the leviathans of the sea, then suddenly dozens of whale sharks turn up all at once.’
      as a group, in a body, as one, as a whole, in a mass, wholesale
      View synonyms
  • at once

    • 1Immediately.

      ‘I fell asleep at once’
      • ‘In most companies, employees have got used to going back to work at once after lunch.’
      • ‘The call goes to Birkenshaw who have files on all the area and can direct a fire crew to me at once.’
      • ‘Anyone with concerns is asked to contact their nearest health centre at once.’
      • ‘There would have been every reason for them to have made such facts public at once.’
      • ‘He had seen his future wife Nancy when she was only 13 and decided at once that she was the only girl for him.’
      • ‘If it is broken it must be used at once, for it discolours and spoils quickly.’
      • ‘When using oil, the mixture should be combined as quickly as possible, then baked at once.’
      • ‘Mr Lane urged any parents who have concerns about the disease to seek medical help at once.’
      • ‘Dust the soufflés with icing sugar and serve at once with the chocolate sauce and fresh berries.’
      • ‘Campaigners fighting to keep homes for the elderly open urged the Council to spend the pot of cash at once.’
      immediately, right away, right now, this instant, this minute, this moment, this second, now, straight away, instantly, instantaneously, directly, suddenly, abruptly, summarily, forthwith, promptly, without delay, without hesitation, without further ado
      View synonyms
    • 2At the same time; simultaneously.

      ‘computers that can do many things at once’
      • ‘The months seem to be slipping by very quickly now, and I'm working on two issues at once at the moment.’
      • ‘There was a slow churning of his thought processes as two ideas came together at once.’
      • ‘Most games that try to do a lot of things at once fall apart at the seams, so both of these are something special.’
      • ‘Blogger has suddenly started emailing me comments again so they all arrived at once.’
      • ‘In the low light of the gallery the effect is at once beautiful and rather ominous.’
      • ‘He's trying to do his job but he can't be everywhere and see everything at once.’
      • ‘Fast bowlers are a bit like buses, none for ages and then two come along at once.’
      • ‘A few trains arrived at once and all of a sudden thousands swarmed the exit all pushing and miserable.’
      • ‘A mean, penetrating rain, the type that comes at you from all directions at once.’
      • ‘Everything is happening at once at the moment, in a manner that is proving really rather hard to deal with.’
      at the same time, at one and the same time, at the same instant, at the same moment, simultaneously
      View synonyms
  • for once (or this once)

    • On this occasion only, as an exception.

      ‘I hope you'll forgive me this once’
      • ‘But just this once, just for a few moments today I felt socially useful.’
      • ‘The painter did not think it would be fun, just this once, to install a window.’
      • ‘She was going to overcome her shy nature this once just for him, because he was worth it.’
      • ‘They're calling it the deal of all deals, and for once you can forgive the hyperbole.’
      • ‘In the circumstances I am prepared to overlook the swearing - just this once.’
      • ‘It should not form a precedent, but rather should be done as an emergency measure just this once.’
      • ‘Not being a fan of fancy dress, I decided to let myself go just this once to fully appreciate the Rocky Horror experience.’
      • ‘Just this once, ‘fun for all the family’ need not fill an adult audience with dread.’
      • ‘The day stayed dry and the sun shone occasionally, and for once there were only a few spots of rain.’
      • ‘Well, all right, write about it this once and I won't kick up the fuss.’
  • once a ——, always a ——

    • proverb A person cannot change their fundamental nature.

      ‘once a whinger, always a whinger’
      • ‘As far as the Catholicism goes, there is a school of thought that says, ‘once a Catholic, always a Catholic’.’
      • ‘Our position is, once a criminal, always a criminal and we will keep you in jail forever, and if we do let you out, we expect you back in three years anyway.’
      • ‘I was strictly a drummer, and once a drummer, always a drummer - the way I play is very rhythmic, very percussive.’
  • once again (or more)

    • One more time.

      • ‘No surprise then that the idea of a national identity card is once again being considered.’
      • ‘Now the company is involved in the scheme once again and plans are back on track.’
      • ‘Recently he had had a lot of personal problems and once more turned to alcohol for comfort.’
      • ‘They now live at an address they have asked us to keep secret for fear the yobs will catch up with them once more.’
      • ‘We were impressed but once more became hopelessly lost as we attempted to leave the city.’
      • ‘We are hoping that once again you will help us out by selling some or all of the tickets.’
      • ‘Two weeks ago children were looking forward to being able to play outdoors once again.’
      • ‘The team is training at the club once more and is looking to recruit players for next season.’
      • ‘When we've done that place up to our liking, we'll sell it ready to move on once more.’
      • ‘I have returned refreshed from Blackpool and am in custody of my own laptop once more.’
      again, once more, once again, a second time, afresh, over again
      View synonyms
  • once and for all (or once for all)

    • Now and for the last time; finally.

      • ‘It is better to strengthen your determination and stop smoking once for all rather than slowing it down.’
      • ‘It is time that the Government found a solution to this problem once and for all.’
      • ‘After all, surely this organisation could put the matter to rest once and for all.’
      • ‘If there had ever been any doubters, they were silenced once and for all.’
      • ‘We first meet her in a rehab facility, vowing to kick the habit once and for all.’
      • ‘Several months earlier he had still been despairing over the work and no doubt wondering whether another seizure would leave him speechless once for all.’
      • ‘This is one issue that residents and pedestrians would like to see completed once and for all.’
      • ‘THis time the vet gave him some drops to kill the fleas once and for all.’
      • ‘I'd appreciate any information which serves to conclude this dispute once and for all.’
      • ‘The aim should surely be to end these meetings once and for all, because all the goals have been reached.’
      conclusively, decisively, finally, positively, absolutely, determinedly, definitely, definitively, irrevocably
      for good, for always, forever, permanently, finally, in perpetuity
      View synonyms
  • once and future

    • Denoting someone or something that is eternal or enduring.

      ‘side two contains four once and future hit singles’
      • ‘The latter similarly sprang from a private association that dates to 1975, when the Cold War often shaped cultural strategies in Germany's once and future capital.’
      • ‘When the numbers were announced for the second ballot, the once and future national chief had five more votes than he needed to bring the election to an end.’
      • ‘Whether he likes it or not, Andy Reid is a once and future hero in Philadelphia, where his name initially generated jeers, not cheers.’
      • ‘Your book deals with the once and future threat of smallpox.’
      • ‘It's not entirely clear whether he's speculating how our once and future republic might defend itself, or giving tips to the present state.’
      • ‘The once and future Hollywood legend would like to sell you a few things via set-top box on his expanding interactive platform.’
      • ‘I was driven to The Docks by my once and future boyfriend, Olivier, who works out at the gym roughly 17 times a week.’
      • ‘Ed Balls, the chancellor's once and future righthand man, gave every indication in the Commons that drastic action could be taken.’
      • ‘To pretend otherwise, to present herself as the once and future champion of a sovereign Britain, was to utter a whopper of leviathan proportions.’
      • ‘The government in Bonn packed its bags and relocated to the Reichstag, the once and future capitol edifice - meaning Berlin had to fit the bill as a nation's capital.’
  • once bitten, twice shy

    • An unpleasant experience induces caution.

      • ‘For him, however, it was not a case of once bitten, twice shy.’
      • ‘I would never have believed the pictures had I not seen them, and once bitten, twice shy.’
      • ‘Of course, once bitten, twice shy, and on top of that, he's got the whole male ego thing telling him not to take another risk.’
      • ‘The Kerry champions, on their first visit to Croke Park as a club, played with the conservatism and nervousness of a team that had been here before, once bitten, twice shy.’
      • ‘There will be an element of once bitten, twice shy with investors who will shy away from going back into equities.’
      • ‘But her resilient, pragmatic approach won over voters who could arguably have been once bitten, twice shy about returning any sort of Thatcher to victory.’
      • ‘I can only hope that as a nation, we remain once bitten, twice shy.’
  • once (or every once) in a while

    • From time to time; occasionally.

      • ‘Just once in a while, I stumble on a little piece of evidence that proves the world is as mad as I'm starting to think it is.’
      • ‘He introduced himself to me and asked if I'd like him to visit once in a while on his rounds.’
      • ‘If, once in a while, we all take responsibility for our own doings maybe then we can all get on with a better life.’
      • ‘He'd come back to the house every once in a while, blind drunk, making everyone's life a misery.’
      • ‘Does she want her husband to say thank you once in a while, or help her out or just not go fishing at all?’
      • ‘I dip into my comments section and reply every once in a while, mostly to show people that I read them.’
      • ‘Every once in a while, it's a good idea to turn away from world events and take a look at the issues on one's doorstep.’
      • ‘Every once in a while, a science fiction film comes along that really shakes things up.’
      • ‘Every once in a while, friends and friends-of-friends come to live with us.’
      • ‘But they do have a cute blog which you should check out every once in a while.’
      occasionally, from time to time, every now and again, every now and then, every so often, every once in a while, on occasion, on occasions, on the odd occasion, at times, sometimes, off and on, at intervals, periodically, sporadically, spasmodically, erratically, irregularly, intermittently, by fits and starts, in fits and starts, fitfully, discontinuously, piecemeal
      View synonyms
  • once or twice

    • A few times.

      • ‘I had an opportunity to chat with him once or twice, and was immediately impressed by his fund of knowledge.’
      • ‘Then he visited me once or twice in Oxford, when he was off on one of his miserable summer holidays and was passing through.’
      • ‘He glanced at me once or twice during the drive to his house but I remained silent.’
      • ‘He blinked once or twice and the dark shape ran back and forth in front of his gaze.’
      • ‘We spoke on the phone once or twice and the next thing I knew she landed on my doorstep.’
      • ‘I will try to post perhaps once or twice whilst I am away, using my Dad's computer.’
      • ‘Give the potatoes a good stir once or twice during cooking to help them break up a bit.’
      • ‘The fact that she might actually be in trouble crossed my mind once or twice but I shoved that away.’
      • ‘I've only met him once or twice and he just told me to keep training hard and I'll reap the rewards.’
      • ‘He has a very relaxed style and I have only seen him lose his temper once or twice since I arrived.’
  • once upon a time

    • 1At some time in the past (used as a conventional opening of a story).

      • ‘I remember once upon a time when I used to look good in clothes.’
      • ‘So once upon a time, way back in the 80s, New Order released a song called ‘Bizzare Love Triangle’ and it was not very good.’
      • ‘Well once upon a time, which is when my story begins, there was a little boy who lived in that cottage and on a particular summer's afternoon he was standing out in the garden.’
      • ‘Here goes: once upon a time, a couple years ago in an overblown naval base called San Diego you were giving a talk.’
      • ‘Something truly dreadful must have happened to these guys once upon a time because what else could explain their complete lack of any emotion on stage.’
      • ‘As the conventional story goes, once upon a time the West slumbered in intellectual darkness.’
      • ‘The boy starts his story once upon a time, knowing that's how stories begin.’
      • ‘Well, once upon a time, over a decade ago, I departed Istanbul possessed by the notion of reaching Moscow and riding the Trans-Siberian express all the way to China.’
      • ‘Apparently once upon a time, one of my relatives was thrown into prison for holding up stagecoaches on the highways of Sussex - just one of the stories which have filtered their way down through the generations.’
      • ‘Maybe, once upon a time, without language skills or the ability to negotiate and rationalise and reason, we had to resort to violence.’
      1. 1.1Formerly.
        ‘once upon a time she would have been jealous, but no longer’
        • ‘Yes, once upon a time, I could read music, thanks to my grandfather.’
        • ‘Trivial Pursuits was one of my favorite blogs once upon a time, and even after it shut down, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of the link.’
        • ‘For example, once upon a time, the Tax Department did not have ready access to your bank account information and unemployment benefits.’
        • ‘And once upon a time, potential students could be forgiven for assuming that such a degree course was a worthwhile investment of time and money.’
        • ‘I have four (previously five, and once upon a time, nine) cats, so I have a little experience on this topic.’
        • ‘Well, once upon a time, Americans would get their news by reading a newspaper or by watching television.’
        • ‘I mean, they were a good band - I loved them once upon a time, and yes I had teenage girl dreams about Robert Plant.’
        • ‘But nothing has ever happened and the quarry has remained quiet as a ghost town whereas, once upon a time, it employed some 100 men.’
        • ‘And don't rewrite your own history to pretend that you didn't need the same help once upon a time.’
        • ‘So I will start by referring to a matter which, once upon a time (before I learnt wisdom), would have had me jumping up and down with fury.’
        formerly, previously, in the past, at one time, at one point, once upon a time, on a former occasion, on one occasion, one time, in one case, time was when, in days gone by, in times gone by, back in the day, in times past, in the old days, in the good old days, long ago
        View synonyms


Middle English ones, genitive of one. The spelling change in the 16th century was in order to retain the unvoiced sound of the final consonant.