Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahn-êr-rayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To burden, encumber, load. 2. To oppress, repress.

Notes: Only seven online dictionaries have entries for this word. All but one (OED) just repeat the entry in Webster's 1913 edition. This word is far rarer than its former antonym, exonerate. Oneration, the action noun, in addition to meaning "loading", means specifically "overloading the stomach with food" and, in legalese, "a financial charge".

In Play: This word was used mostly in connection with international politics: "World War II was the result of the Allies' insisting on onerating Germany with heavy reparations in the Versailles Treaty." Wouldn't you love to hear your teenager say, "Hey, mom! Don't onerate me with so many chores around the house!"

Word History: Up until the 17th century, English had a verb oner "to burden, oppress", but with the coming of oneration, it was extended by the verbal suffix -ate. Oner was borrowed directly from Latin onerare "to load, burden, oppress", based on the noun onus, oneris "load, burden, difficulty". Onus comes from PIE enos-/onos- "burden", seen in Sanskrit anah "cart, wagon", but nowhere else in the Indo-European languages except Latin. (George Kovac discovered this word in the course of a very interesting discussion between him and Phil Hudson, R. Rentner, and Debbie Moggio of exonerate.)

Dr. Goodword,

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