First Name
in the U.S.
since 1880
Last Name
in the U.S.
in 2010
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How to Pronounce On

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Meaning and Origin

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Origin and Meaning of On

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Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
preposition On
The general signification of on is situation, motion, or condition with respect to contact or support beneath
  1. At, or in contact with, the surface or upper part of a thing, and supported by it; placed or lying in contact with the surface; as, the book lies on the table, which stands on the floor of a house on an island."I stood on the bridge at midnight." [Longfellow.]
  2. To or against the surface of; -- used to indicate the motion of a thing as coming or falling to the surface of another; as, rain falls on the earth."Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken." [Matt. xxi. 44.]
  3. Denoting performance or action by contact with the surface, upper part, or outside of anything; hence, by means of; with; as, to play on a violin or piano. Hence, figuratively, to work on one's feelings; to make an impression on the mind.
  4. At or near; adjacent to; -- indicating situation, place, or position; as, on the one hand, on the other hand; the fleet is on the American coast.
  5. In addition to; besides; -- indicating multiplication or succession in a series; as, heaps on heaps; mischief on mischief; loss on loss; thought on thought.
  6. Indicating dependence or reliance; with confidence in; as, to depend on a person for assistance; to rely on ; hence, indicating the ground or support of anything; as, he will promise on certain conditions; to bet on a horse; based on certain assumptions.
  7. At or in the time of; during; as, on Sunday we abstain from labor. See Atsynonym).
  8. At the time of; -- often conveying some notion of cause or motive; as, on public occasions, the officers appear in full dress or uniform; the shop is closed on Sundays.Hence,in consequence of, or following; as, on the ratification of the treaty, the armies were disbanded; start on the count of three.
  9. Toward; for; -- indicating the object of some passion; as, have pity or compassion on him.
  10. At the peril of, or for the safety of."Hence, onthy life." [Dryden.]
  11. By virtue of; with the pledge of; -- denoting a pledge or engagement, and put before the thing pledged; as, he affirmed or promised on his word, or on his honor.
  12. To the account of; -- denoting imprecation or invocation, or coming to, falling, or resting upon; as, on us be all the blame; a curse on him. "His blood be on us and on our children." [Matt. xxvii. 25.]
  13. In reference or relation to; as, on our part expect punctuality; a satire on society.
  14. Of.(Obs)"Be not jealous onme." [Shak.]"Or have we eaten on the insane root That takes the reason prisoner?" [Shak.]
  15. Occupied with; in the performance of; as, only three officers are on duty; on a journey; on the job; on an assignment; on a case; on the alert.
  16. In the service of; connected with; a member of; as, he is on a newspaper; on a committee.
  17. In reference to; about; concerning; as, to think on it; to meditate on it."They have added the -en plural form on to an elder plural." [Earle.]"We see the strength of the new movement in the new class of ecclesiastics whom it forced on to the stage." [J. R. Green.]

Note: ☞ Instances of this usage are common in our older writers, and are sometimes now heard in illiterate speech.

Note: On and upon are in general interchangeable. In some applications upon is more euphonious, and is therefore to be preferred; but in most cases on is preferable.

Etymology: OE. on an o a, AS. on an; akin to D. aan, OS. & G. an, OHG. ana, Icel. ā, Sw. å, Goth. ana, Russ. na, L. an-, in anhelare to pant, Gr. 'ana`, Zend ana. √195. Cf. A-, 1, Ana- Anon

adverb On
  1. Forward, in progression; onward; -- usually with a verb of motion; as, move on; go on; the beat goes on. "Time glides on." [Macaulay.]"The path is smooth that leadeth on to danger." [Shak.]
  2. Forward, in succession; as, from father to son, from the son to the grandson, and so on .
  3. In continuance; without interruption or ceasing; as, sleep on, take your ease; say on; sing on.
  4. Adhering; not off; as in the phrase, “He is neither on nor off,” that is, he is not steady, he is irresolute.
  5. Attached to the body, as clothing or ornament, or for use."I have boots on." [B. Gonson.]"He put on righteousness as a breastplate." [Is. lix. 17.]
  6. In progress; proceeding; ongoing; as, a game is on .

Note: On is sometimes used as an exclamation, or a command to move or proceed, some verb being understood; as, on, comrades; that is, go on move on.

Etymology: See On (prep.)

Other Dictionary Sources
  1. In operation or operational ("left the oven on" and "the switch is in the on position")
  2. (of events) planned or scheduled ("the picnic is on, rain or shine" and "we have nothing on for Friday night")
  3. With a forward motion ("we drove along admiring the view", "the horse trotted along at a steady pace", "the circus traveled on to the next city", "move along", and "march on")
  4. Indicates continuity or persistence or concentration ("his spirit lives on" and "shall I read on?")
  5. In a state required for something to function or be effective ("turn the lights on" and "get a load on")

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.

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”).

on was also found in the following language(s): Azeri, Basque, Catalan, Central Franconian, Classical Nahuatl, Cornish, Crimean Tatar, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German Low German, Ido, Interlingua, Japanese, Middle English, Northern Sami, Old English, Old French, Polish, Romansch, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak, Slovene, Swedish, Turkish, Turkmen, Venetian, Volapük, and Walloon

Notable Persons Named On

On Joo-wan is an actor. He has had major accomplishments since 2004. On was given the name Song Jeong-sik on December 11th, 1983 in Daejeon. On is also known as Ohn Ju-wan.


On Kawara was an artist in the fields of visual arts and conceptual art. On was born on December 24th, 1932 in Kariya, Aichi. He died on June 27th, 2014.


On was born on November 17th, 1990 in Hong Kong.


On was born in 1682 in Kumemura. He left this life in 1761.


On Watanabe is a writer.


On was born on June 22nd, 1926. He breathed his last breath on January 19th, 2012.


Notable Persons With the Last Name On

Andy On is an actor and martial arts. His career lasted from 2002 to 2002. Andy was born on May 11th, 1977 in Providence, Rhode Island.


He was most active from 1973 to 2009. Shing was born on February 1st, 1955 in Hong Kong. Shing is also known as Dai Saw (大傻; lit. big fool). He breathed his last breath on August 27th, 2009.


Sim was born in 1375. He breathed his last breath in 1418.


Hanz On is an east coast hip hop musician. His most notable accomplishments were from 2010 to present. Hanz was given the name Anthony Messado on July 24th, 1974. Hanz is also known as Hannibal The Great.


Nguyễn was born in 1825. He breathed his last breath in 1889.


Where is the name On popular?

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Popularity of On as a last name

The map shows the absolute popularity of the name On as a last name in each of the states. See other popular names in California, New York, or Massachusetts.

Common last names for On

  • Wong
  • Lee
  • Nguyen
  • Leong
  • Ng

Common first names for On

Ethnicity Distribution

Ethnicity On U.S.
  White 8.10% 64.26%
  African American 2.14% 11.96%
  Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 85.18% 4.85%
  American Indian and Alaska Native 0.00% 0.69%
  Two or More Ethnicities 2.22% 1.76%
  Hispanic or Latino 2.37% 16.26%

Of Last Name On

People with the last name On are most frequently Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander

Entire United States

Fun Facts about the name On

  • How Popular is the name On? As a last name On was the 20,309th most popular name in 2010.
  • When was the first name On first recorded in the United States? The oldest recorded birth by the Social Security Administration for the name On is Thursday, March 15th, 1877.
  • How unique is the name On? From 1880 to 2017 less than 5 people per year have been born with the first name On. Hoorah! You are a unique individual.
  • Weird things about the name On: Your name in reverse order is No. A random rearrangement of the letters in your name (anagram) will give On. How do you pronounce that?
  • How many people have the last name On? In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed 1,309 people with the last name On.
  • How likely are you to meet someone with the last name of On? Chances are, most people haven't met someone with On as their last name since less than 1 person in 227k people have that last name. If you know one, consider yourself lucky!

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  • Sources:
  • U.S. Census Bureau: Frequently Occurring Surnames from the Census 2000 (public domain).
  • 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary via the Collaborative International Dictionary of English (License)
  • Other Dictionary Sources: WordNet 3.1 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University (License).
  • Wiktionary: Titles and License.
  • Notable persons via Wikipedia: Titles and License. Click each image for the attribution information.