On a sudden

On On ([o^]n), prep. [OE. on, an, o, a, AS. on, an; akin to D. aan, OS. & G. an, OHG. ana, Icel. [=a], Sw. [*a], Goth. ana, Russ. na, L. an-, in anhelare to pant, Gr. 'ana`, Zend ana. [root]195. Cf. {A-}, 1, {Ana-}, {Anon}.] The general signification of on is situation, motion, or condition with respect to contact or support beneath; as: [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

I stood on the bridge at midnight. --Longfellow. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken. --Matt. xxi. 44. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

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. --Shak. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster +PJC]

7. At or in the time of; during; as, on Sunday we abstain from labor. See {At} (synonym). [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster +PJC]

9. Toward; for; -- indicating the object of some passion; as, have pity or compassion on him. [1913 Webster]

10. At the peril of, or for the safety of. ``Hence, on thy life.'' --Dryden. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

His blood be on us and on our children. --Matt. xxvii. 25. [1913 Webster]

13. In reference or relation to; as, on our part expect punctuality; a satire on society. [1913 Webster]

14. Of. [Obs.] ``Be not jealous on me.'' --Shak. [1913 Webster]

Or have we eaten on the insane root That takes the reason prisoner? --Shak. [1913 Webster]

Note: Instances of this usage are common in our older writers, and are sometimes now heard in illiterate speech. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster +PJC]

16. In the service of; connected with; a member of; as, he is on a newspaper; on a committee. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

17. In reference to; about; concerning; as, to think on it; to meditate on it. [PJC]

{On a bowline}. (Naut.) Same as {Closehauled}.

{On a wind}, or {On the wind} (Naut.), sailing closehauled.

{On a sudden}. See under {Sudden}.

{On board}, {On draught}, {On fire}, etc. See under {Board}, {Draught}, {Fire}, etc.

{On it}, {On't}, of it. [Obs. or Colloq.] --Shak.

{On shore}, on land; to the shore.

{On the road}, {On the way}, {On the wing}, etc. See under {Road}, {Way}, etc.

{On to}, upon; on; to; -- sometimes written as one word, onto, and usually called a colloquialism; but it may be regarded in analogy with into. [1913 Webster]

They have added the -en plural form on to an elder plural. --Earle. [1913 Webster]

We see the strength of the new movement in the new class of ecclesiastics whom it forced on to the stage. --J. R. Green. [1913 Webster]


The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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