Printable Version
Pronunciation: o-nês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: An unpleasant or unfortunate duty or obligation, the burden of responsibility.

Notes: Today's Good Word appears in the legal term onus probandi "burden of proof". We may mix the English and Latin to say, "onus of proof", if we so desire. The adjective that comes with this noun is onerous, and the noun from this adjective is onerosity "the quality of being onerous".

In Play: The degree of unpleasantness associate with today's word varies across a range from very little to much: "Most American businessmen would like to be relieved of the onus of providing healthcare for their employees." Onuses oppress those of all ages: "Homework is an onus for American pupils, but not for those in Finland, who have none."

Word History: Today's word IS Latin onus "load, burden", inherited from Proto-Indo-European en-es- "burden", the source of Sanskrit anah "cart, wagon", and Greek ania "distress, trouble" and ana "on, upon". This derivational line of the PIE word ran out of steam with Latin. No evidence of it shows up in any modern Indo-European language.

Dr. Goodword,

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