Friday, August 24, 2018

Onset, Outset

Francine from Interlochen, Michigan, asked about the difference between the words outset and onset. They both signify a beginning or a start, but while outset is neutral in its connotation, onset signifies the start of something troublesome.

Outset:  The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first written instance as 1664, and defines it as, “The action or fact of setting out upon a journey, course of action, business, etc.; a start, a beginning. Now chiefly in at the outset, from the outset.”

·      She made it clear at the outset that transparency was vital in dealing with customers.

·      There were problems with the generator from the outset.

·      At the outset he knew very little about computers, but he quickly learned on the job. 

Onset:  The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first written instance as 1561, and defines it as, “The beginning of some (esp. unpleasant) situation, condition, or state, etc.; a commencement, a start.”

·      Many people believe that you should increase your intake of vitamin C at the onset of a cold.

·      The villagers fought hard at the onset of the rebel attack on their homes.

·      Sudden sensitivity to light often signals the onset of a migraine.

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