Definition of on in English:

on

Pronunciation: /ôn//än/

preposition

  • 1Physically in contact with and supported by (a surface)

    ‘on the table was a water jug’
    ‘she was lying on the floor’
    ‘a sign on the front gate’
    • ‘I was standing on a chair in front of the mirror while Mother dressed me and combed my hair.’
    • ‘There was a notice on the door saying that due to technical issues the shop will be closed indefinitely.’
    • ‘They were both sitting on the couch, looking at magazines.’
    • ‘Every day she eats beans on toast.’
    • ‘She felt his hands on her shoulders.’
    • ‘There were wonderful pictures on the wall.’
    • ‘There was a crystal vase filled with flowers on the table.’
    • ‘There was a definite angle and there was no way we could sleep on it.’
    • ‘For the first time in months it would be possible to eat a meal set out on it.’
    • ‘Looking around the room I notice a computer on his desk.’
    1. 1.1 Located somewhere in the general surface area of (a place)
      ‘an internment camp on the island’
      ‘the house on the corner’
      • ‘Nearly every town on the coast and islands has an equipped marina.’
      • ‘The only surviving Georgian house on the street was semi-derelict.’
      • ‘Originally the local county councillors wanted to sell the land to build a new church on it.’
      • ‘There is a large prison on the moor, where more than a thousand convicts are confined.’
      • ‘We buy some fresh bread from the only shop on the island.’
      • ‘These are times I wish I had a house on the beach.’
      • ‘He tracks them through the forest and marshlands and finally finds that they have taken refuge inside a shack on the riverbank.’
    2. 1.2 As a result of accidental physical contact with.
      ‘one of the children had cut a foot on some glass’
      ‘he banged his head on a beam’
      • ‘He did his best not to cut himself on the jagged edge of the can.’
      • ‘She fell and lightly grazed her knee on the sidewalk.’
      • ‘He tripped on a discarded shoe box and hit his head on an open desk drawer.’
      • ‘The healthcare worker injured herself on the exposed needle.’
      • ‘He banged his elbow on a marble countertop while cleaning dishes at his home.’
      • ‘While walking he stubbed his toe on a sharp rock.’
      • ‘She bumped her head on the ceiling.’
      • ‘I am glad I didn't cut myself on the broken glass.’
    3. 1.3 Supported by (a part of the body)
      ‘he was lying on his back’
      • ‘Did you ever get concerned about your little toddler walking around on his tiptoes all the time?’
      • ‘The horse reared back on its hind legs.’
      • ‘Why do flamingos stand on one leg?’
      • ‘If he is lying on his front, put a pad under his forehead to extend his neck and free his airway.’
      • ‘He asked if I wanted a drink and got down on all fours while he looked in the mini-bar.’
      • ‘The longest recorded duration for balancing on one foot is 76 hours 40 minutes.’
      • ‘Kelly underwent 11 major surgeries and spent long hours stretched out on her back, on a morphine drip.’
      supported by, resting on, in contact with
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4 So as to be supported or held by.
      ‘put it on the table’
      • ‘He put my resume down on his desk and rubbed the bridge of his nose.’
      • ‘He dropped his bag on the floor and sat on the couch.’
      • ‘Hang your coat on the hook there and let's go to the kitchen for tea.’
      • ‘He put the empty bottle on the desk.’
      • ‘Put a large blob of mayonnaise on the side of the plate.’
      • ‘I put my hand on his shoulder.’
      • ‘I put the shopping on the passenger seat and started to drive home.’
    5. 1.5 In the possession of (the person referred to)
      ‘she only had a few dollars on her’
      • ‘She had her phone on her at all times.’
      • ‘I'll treat you to lunch, but I only have 20 dollars on me.’
      • ‘I'll give you my agent's number, but I don't have it on me right now.’
      • ‘He reached into his pocket, only to discover that he didn't have his wallet on him.’
      • ‘If they do not have any money on them, the police take them to the police station.’
  • 2Forming a distinctive or marked part of (the surface of something)

    ‘a scratch on her arm’
    ‘a smile on her face’
    • ‘The oil made a dark stain on the carpet.’
    • ‘He had an angry look on his face.’
    • ‘The bike had a black seat with a white stripe on it, a white rim round the wheels and orange pedals.’
    • ‘In the examining room, Dr. O'Brien was silent as he looked at the mole on her leg.’
    • ‘My son has a bruise on his forehead.’
    • ‘I looked in the mirror and noticed a mark on my chest.’
    • ‘I've got a nasty scratch on my car.’
    • ‘She made Eric a cake with a cow on it as a leaving gift.’
    • ‘The bag is black with a white cross on it, and contained a brown purse and gold loop earrings.’
    • ‘We had to identify him by one of his trainers and a schoolbag with his name on it.’
  • 3Having (the thing mentioned) as a topic.

    ‘a book on careers’
    ‘essays on a wide range of issues’
    • ‘An Australian film crew were making a documentary on Asian footballers who play in Europe.’
    • ‘I watched a show last night on advances in forensic science.’
    • ‘I attempted to understand the articles on cricket but failed miserably.’
    • ‘I want to write a book on how to eat properly.’
    • ‘A very interesting conversation on language and writing ensued.’
    • ‘After I began writing this article, a passionate debate on the same subject erupted in an online discussion forum.’
    • ‘The details on side effects are listed in Table 2 of the online supplement.’
    regarding, concerning, with reference to, referring to, with regard to, with respect to, respecting, relating to, touching on, dealing with, relevant to, with relevance to, connected with, in connection with, on the subject of, in the matter of, apropos, re
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 Having (the thing mentioned) as a basis.
      ‘modeled on the Mayflower Compact’
      ‘dependent on availability’
      • ‘If you need a prototype built on a new design, we can handle it.’
      • ‘The lame argument for using this datum is that some of the paper maps were based on it.’
      • ‘How often they remove the snow is dependant on the weather.’
      • ‘The film is based on a true story.’
      • ‘On their advice I sold most of my shares.’
      • ‘Traditional Cambridge colleges, modelled on monastic cloisters, consist of courts surrounded by walls of individual rooms.’
      • ‘There are many ways to make iced tea, and countless variations on the basic recipe.’
  • 4As a member of (a committee, jury, or other body)

    ‘they would be allowed to serve on committees’
    • ‘He was on several committees and was a former Lord Mayor.’
    • ‘I knew he was on the jury but did not talk to him about it.’
    • ‘I wish all the people on the committee well as there are some good and willing people on it.’
    • ‘She served on many advisory councils and boards.’
    • ‘A large proportion of members are unwilling to consider serving on the board.’
    • ‘She sits on a number of high-profile advisory groups.’
  • 5Having (the thing mentioned) as a target, aim, or focus.

    ‘five air raids on the city’
    ‘thousands marching on Washington’
    ‘her eyes were fixed on his dark profile’
    • ‘The police descended on the premises in large numbers.’
    • ‘They never actually engaged in close combat by firing on the enemy.’
    • ‘Armed raiders escaped with around €20,000 during a daring raid on a busy hotel in west Dublin early yesterday morning.’
    • ‘The colourful protest marched on the Scottish Parliament.’
    • ‘They're planning an attack on the city.’
    • ‘The priest, to my surprise, launched into a verbal assault on me.’
  • 6Having (the thing mentioned) as a medium for transmitting or storing information.

    ‘put your ideas down on paper’
    ‘stored on the client's own computer’
    • ‘I have the whole series on tape.’
    • ‘Operations are routinely recorded on video tape for teaching purposes.’
    • ‘I spent a lot time driving and listening to books on tape.’
    • ‘I was taught in college that one ought to figure out a program completely on paper before even going near a computer.’
    • ‘The data on the hard drive may still be salvageable.’
    • ‘The amount of new information stored on paper, film, magnetic and optical media has roughly doubled in the last three years.’
    • ‘All of these films are available in restored, good quality editions and most are now available on DVD.’
    • ‘It's not as if the ready availability of rock music on CD stops people going to rock concerts.’
    • ‘Marc used to say ‘If it's not on the Internet, it doesn't exist.’’
    1. 6.1 Being broadcast by (a radio or television channel)
      ‘a new TV series on Channel 4’
      • ‘She now presents religious and travel programmes on BBC TV.’
      • ‘One of my favourite sketch shows is being repeated on radio four at the moment.’
      • ‘The animated short film The Snowman was a huge success when it appeared on Channel 4 in 1982.’
      • ‘He is branching out into work as a television presenter, with his own science programme on the Discovery Channel.’
      • ‘The show will be broadcast on CBS on December 26th.’
      • ‘He is transfixed by footage of riots showing on Sky News.’
      • ‘I enjoyed the show when it aired on MTV.’
  • 7In the course of (a journey)

    ‘he was on his way to see his mother’
    • ‘I felt really lonely in the car on the drive home.’
    • ‘Her symptoms grew increasingly bad during the two-week holiday and her leg became very painful on the trip back to Manchester.’
    • ‘I'm on my way right now.’
    • ‘I stopped to pick up a gallon of milk on my way home from work.’
    • ‘You'll see all manner of birdlife on the journey to the only tented camp in the National Park.’
    • ‘During a quiet moment on the expedition, Emma gazes at the Surrey landscape spread out before her.’
    1. 7.1 While traveling in (a public conveyance)
      ‘John got some sleep on the plane’
      • ‘The music scene was full of underfed, hard working guys who wrote songs on the bus or in motel rooms.’
      • ‘I picked up a copy of the magazine to read on the plane this week.’
      • ‘On the boat back to Europe he basically stayed in his room and drank.’
      • ‘The boys fall asleep on the train.’
      • ‘They both had their knapsacks stolen on the train.’
      • ‘On the ferry over I talked to some American missionaries helping with the relief effort.’
      • ‘I read and wrote on the plane home.’
    2. 7.2 Onto (a public conveyance) with the intention of traveling in it.
      ‘we got on the train’
      • ‘I met him for the first time three weeks ago, when we climbed on the buses to head out to our units.’
      • ‘From here you can pick up a rowing boat or hop on the ferry.’
      • ‘I had a great deal of apprehension getting on the plane to fly to Japan.’
      • ‘As our conductor hollered we ran and clambered on the bus back home.’
      • ‘We were among the last to get on the coach and had to take whatever seats were left.’
      • ‘Peg and Matt enjoy being able to hop on the train to Chicago to go to a lecture or eat at a trendy restaurant.’
      • ‘I got on the bus and went into New York.’
  • 8Indicating the day or part of a day during which an event takes place.

    ‘reported on September 26’
    ‘on a very hot evening in July’
    • ‘Despite the protests, the secrecy of proceedings and the bitter collapse of talks on the last day, progress was made.’
    • ‘On the first Monday following Twelfth Night, the corn dolly would be ploughed back into the soil so that its spirit would be released and ensure a good harvest.’
    • ‘The idea of allowing employees to dress down on the final day of the week seemed completely harmless to most observers.’
    • ‘They will be married on her birthday.’
    • ‘On Saturday night we went to a football match.’
    • ‘Napoleon died on the evening of 5 May 1821.’
    • ‘He had been forced to use his bicycle to get to work because his car had broken down on the morning of the accident.’
    • ‘The children of employees join their parents for a day at the office on Christmas Eve.’
    1. 8.1 At the time of.
      ‘she was booed on arriving home’
      • ‘On arrival, please sign in at the registration table.’
      • ‘On returning to his house three weeks later, he was arrested and taken to Newgate prison.’
      • ‘The first thing I saw on entering was a life-size model of a heron standing on a counter.’
      • ‘On his return to Italy in 1945, he abandoned medicine in favour of painting.’
      • ‘He had a commission in the RAF and on leaving in 1990 he joined the Territorial Army.’
      • ‘On closing the door she wondered if she had imagined the smirk on his face.’
      • ‘The team was given a great reception on arrival back in Swinford with the Cup.’
      • ‘Rowena was surprised to find, on walking into the meeting room at the hotel, that most of her co-workers had already arrived.’
  • 9Engaged in.

    ‘his attendant was out on errands’
    • ‘When you are on operations it is always nice to receive packages from home.’
    • ‘She had been on leave caring for a sick child.’
    • ‘I was working in Los Angeles on assignment.’
    • ‘Jim's just been on holiday in Scotland.’
    • ‘I thought you were on guard duty today.’
    • ‘We were trained never to stand still when we were out on patrol.’
    • ‘When you're on vacation or at an out-of-town seminar, go to the local galleries.’
    • ‘Susan was called out of town on business.’
  • 10Regularly taking (a drug or medicine)

    ‘he is on morphine to relieve the pain’
    • ‘Is it safe for her to be on antibiotics for so long?’
    • ‘He had been put on prescription drugs to help him cope with coming off crack.’
    • ‘These days I take five pills a day, but at one point I was on about 20.’
    • ‘Her son had been on drugs for nine years and was desperate to get rid of the habit.’
    • ‘Since I started working out, I don't have to be on prescription drugs any more.’
    • ‘Sometime around January my girlfriend went on the pill.’
    • ‘I'm happier than I was three years ago, when I was drinking and I was on cocaine.’
    • ‘My Mum and Dad were on heroin before I was born.’
    • ‘I was on heavy duty painkillers for 48 hours.’
    • ‘I was on about sixty cigarettes a day.’
  • 11Paid for by.

    ‘the drinks are on me’
    • ‘Order what you want from any menu. It's all on the house.’
    • ‘Congratulations guys; the champagne's on us!’
    • ‘If ever we're in the same city, dinner's on me.’
    • ‘The football tickets for the match tomorrow are on you! I'll buy the drinks!’
    • ‘They are already praising you for being ‘such a gentleman’ and promising next time the treat's on them!’
  • 12Added to.

    ‘a few cents on the electric bill is nothing compared with your security’
    • ‘It's all too easy to agree to an extra few pounds on the bill, but that could be costly mistake.’
    • ‘One hundred pounds a year extra on the insurance is not a lot at all.’
    • ‘Your friend will receive a 50% deposit bonus up to $50 in bonus dollars on his initial deposit for participating in the program.’
    • ‘We can put another $50 on the course fees.’
    • ‘A few pence on your bid price because you can afford to pay more for it, moves you into maybe the top three positions.’

Phrases

  • be on about

    • informal Talk about tediously and at length.

      ‘she's always on about doing one's duty’
      • ‘He talked a lot about the virtues of tolerance and fair play, but nobody had a clue what he was on about.’
      • ‘I am one of these people on a low income she is on about.’
      • ‘I told him I didn't know what he was on about.’
      • ‘Half of them texted me back wondering what on earth I was on about.’
      • ‘When I first arrived out here and started yapping on about a film festival, people didn't know what I was on about.’
      • ‘I might head back home watch that video your brother was on about.’
      • ‘She was the only person on board who could always understand what he was on about.’
      • ‘Our Prime Minister is on about how political correctness is harming free speech and opinion.’
      • ‘Most people watching thought the debates a big bore and could not recall what the candidates were on about.’
      • ‘Needless to say, no-one had a clue what I was on about.’
  • it's not on

    • informal It's impractical or unacceptable.

      • ‘I would just ask the culprits to remember that a lot of people have worked hard to obtain funding for this facility, and that it's not on for them to go around wrecking it just because they are bored.’
      • ‘The woman sat opposite moaned - it's not on, calling ‘Last Orders' early.’
      • ‘‘I want to make it really clear, before they even start to discuss it, that it's not on,’ she said.’
      • ‘I'm not just saying this for us, but the park is for everyone and it's not on.’
      • ‘They fall out on the street at 6 or 7 in the morning and disturb all the residents, it's not on.’
      • ‘It's not on having hundreds of kids running wild all day.’
      • ‘I know the prime minister's advisors read this site before setting policy, so I'm saying now, it's not on.’
      • ‘It doesn't matter whether the offenders are over 75 or under ten, if they make a nuisance of themselves - it's not on.’
      • ‘I would be the first to agree it's not on, but I'm trying to get something done about it.’
      • ‘We could have this problem every day for the next year and it's not on.’
  • on and off

    • Intermittently.

      ‘it rained on and off most of the afternoon’
      • ‘Simon had worked in the business on and off since childhood.’
      • ‘Her husband had connections with the property and may have lived there on and off.’
      • ‘I have been temping on and off but my overdraft stubbornly refuses to get smaller.’
      • ‘I was warned that the most common side effect was a cough and over the past week or so I've had one on and off.’
      • ‘I smoke on and off now, but I don't drink much and have made a lot of changes to my diet.’
      • ‘He is thought to have worked on and off as a government spy for the rest of his life.’
      • ‘I lived there on and off for five years, leaving it for the last time in 1977 and moving on.’
      • ‘Most days have had fairly heavy rain on and off so we have not been able to get out in the garden to tidy up.’
      • ‘There's a girl at work who's been sick on and off over the past few weeks.’
      • ‘She suffered from depression on and off since she was young and masked her emotions very well.’
  • on and on

    • Continually; at tedious length.

      ‘he went on and on about his grandad's trombone’
      • ‘During one hot summer, Lisa kept on and on about wanting to go swimming.’
      • ‘He rambled on and on about how different brands compared to others.’
      • ‘The UN negotiations drag on and on as the international community weakens and loses interest.’
      • ‘The whole show dragged on and on seemingly forever.’
      • ‘But too many suspensions cases have dragged on and on, wasting large sums of taxpayers' money.’
      • ‘He sat down with James in his lap, listening to the little boy babble on and on.’
      • ‘He was going on and on in his speech about safety at reasonable cost.’
      • ‘I tried to make a big show of looking away from the screen till it was over, but the scene went on and on.’
      • ‘She took the phone and talked on and on without holding the steering wheel.’
      • ‘The teacher droned on and on about local history.’
      for a long time, for ages, for hours, at length, at great length, incessantly, ceaselessly, constantly, continuously, continually, endlessly, unendingly, eternally, forever
      interminably, unremittingly, relentlessly, indefatigably, without let-up, without a break, without a pause, without cease
      View synonyms
  • what are you on?

    • informal Said to express incredulity at someone's behavior, with the implication that they must be under the influence of drugs.

      • ‘You are getting creepier and more paranoid than normal… what are you on?’
      • ‘Ma, its four in the morning, what are you on? Did you overdose on painkillers again?’
      • ‘For god's sake Holly, what are you on?’
      • ‘I stopped and looked at them as they stared and Shannon said, ‘what are you on?’’
      • ‘Dude, what are you on? Are you still loaded?’
  • you're on

    • informal Said by way of accepting a challenge or bet.

      • ‘‘A bottle of tequila says we find it in less than a week,’ Liz said. ‘Make it two, and you're on,’ Isabel said, shaking her hand.’
      • ‘If you mean it, you're on! There's lots I could do with three hundred quid.’
      • ‘Make it £5 and you're on.’
      • ‘I think about it for a moment and I tell him ‘OK, you're on. I'll take your bet.’’
      • ‘You're on. You come up with a good enough prize for me to win, and I'll be happy to take your bet.’

Origin

Old English on, an, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch aan and German an, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek ana.

Pronunciation:

on

/ôn//än/