Definition of once in English:

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Pronunciation: /wʌns/


1On one occasion or for one time only: they deliver once a week (as noun the once) informal he’d only met her the once
More example sentences
  • The defeat means Sweden have still only once been past the second round stage since 1974.
  • Instead of delivering twice a day, including in the morning, it now delivers once, at lunchtime.
  • More than once Walt has caught her talking to herself when in fact she was speaking to Fred.
on one occasion, one time, one single time
1.1 (usually with negative or if) On even one occasion; at all (used for emphasis): he never once complained if she once got an idea in her head you’d never move it
More example sentences
  • By midday, Ashley was tired, hungry and her back was throbbing, but she never once complained.
  • Not once has my doctor ever bothered to ask me about what I eat or if I exercise.
  • Otherwise, the game is remarkably stable - didn't crash once on my machine.
ever, at any time, on any occasion, at all, under any circumstances, on any account, in a million years
2At some time in the past; formerly: Gran had once been a famous singer
More example sentences
  • It was a strange and eerie feeling riding through the near deserted streets of this once great city that I had read and seen so many films about.
  • The field was once part of a terrace of the Whitton Dene manor house and it seems that the trouble began when it was filled in with material to even it out.
  • Think of someone who was once young and vital, now old, battered, semi-literate and living off the social.
3Multiplied by one: once two is two


As soon as; when: once the grapes were pressed, the juice was put into barrels
More example sentences
  • I will comment further on this once I have had a chance to fully digest it myself.
  • And who is there to offer support for the homeless once Christmas is over?
  • The Echo will publish information on the community petition once details are finalised.
as soon as, when, after, immediately after, the instant/moment/second/minute
British informal immediately



all at once

1Suddenly: all at once the noise stopped
More example sentences
  • The sounds struck her all at once, as if the volume on her ears had suddenly been turned up.
  • When he finally did put her words together, it hit him all at once like a ton of bricks.
  • Through it all, he is optimistic that he can succeed, not all at once, but over time.
2All at the same time: a lot of beans are ready all at once
More example sentences
  • Add the bean sprouts all at once and leave for 20 seconds, then add the spring onions, stir well, and drain.
  • Cost-wise, it makes sense to collect several updates together and release them all at once.
  • The dancers mix it up quite a bit, performing together all at once, as well as in trios, duos and solo pieces.

at once

1Immediately: I fell asleep at once
More example sentences
  • When using oil, the mixture should be combined as quickly as possible, then baked at once.
  • The call goes to Birkenshaw who have files on all the area and can direct a fire crew to me at once.
  • If it is broken it must be used at once, for it discolours and spoils quickly.
immediately, right away, right now, this moment/instant/second/minute, now, straight away, instantly, instantaneously, directly, suddenly, abruptly, summarily, forthwith, promptly, without delay/hesitation, without further ado;
quickly, as fast as possible, as soon as possible, fast, speedily, with all speed
informal like a shot, in/like a flash, before you can say Jack Robinson, in two shakes (of a lamb's tail)
2At the same time; simultaneously: computers that can do many things at once
More example sentences
  • There was a slow churning of his thought processes as two ideas came together at once.
  • In the low light of the gallery the effect is at once beautiful and rather ominous.
  • Everything is happening at once at the moment, in a manner that is proving really rather hard to deal with.
at the same time, at one and the same time, at the same instant/moment, (all) together, simultaneously;
as a group, in unison, in concert, in chorus

for once (or this once)

On this occasion only, as an exception: I hope you’ll forgive me this once
More example sentences
  • The day stayed dry and the sun shone occasionally, and for once there were only a few spots of rain.
  • They're calling it the deal of all deals, and for once you can forgive the hyperbole.
  • But just this once, just for a few moments today I felt socially useful.

once a ——, always a ——

proverb A person cannot change their fundamental nature: once a whinger, always a whinger
More example sentences
  • As far as the Catholicism goes, there is a school of thought that says, ‘once a Catholic, always a Catholic’.
  • Our position is, once a criminal, always a criminal and we will keep you in jail forever, and if we do let you out, we expect you back in three years anyway.
  • I was strictly a drummer, and once a drummer, always a drummer - the way I play is very rhythmic, very percussive.

once again (or more)

One more time.
Example sentences
  • They now live at an address they have asked us to keep secret for fear the yobs will catch up with them once more.
  • I have returned refreshed from Blackpool and am in custody of my own laptop once more.
  • We were impressed but once more became hopelessly lost as we attempted to leave the city.

once and for all (or once for all)

Now and for the last time; finally.
Example sentences
  • It is better to strengthen your determination and stop smoking once for all rather than slowing it down.
  • I'd appreciate any information which serves to conclude this dispute once and for all.
  • Several months earlier he had still been despairing over the work and no doubt wondering whether another seizure would leave him speechless once for all.
conclusively, decisively, finally, positively, absolutely, determinedly, definitely, definitively, irrevocably
for good, for always, forever, permanently, finally, in perpetuity
informal for keeps

once and future

Denoting someone or something that is eternal or enduring: side two contains four once and future hit singles
1950s: from T. H. White's Once and Future King (1958)
More example sentences
  • The government in Bonn packed its bags and relocated to the Reichstag, the once and future capitol edifice - meaning Berlin had to fit the bill as a nation's capital.
  • I was driven to The Docks by my once and future boyfriend, Olivier, who works out at the gym roughly 17 times a week.
  • Your book deals with the once and future threat of smallpox.

once bitten, twice shy

see bite.

once (or every once) in a while

From time to time; occasionally.
Example sentences
  • Just once in a while, I stumble on a little piece of evidence that proves the world is as mad as I'm starting to think it is.
  • Every once in a while, friends and friends-of-friends come to live with us.
  • Does she want her husband to say thank you once in a while, or help her out or just not go fishing at all?
occasionally, from time to time, (every) now and then/again, every so often, every once in a while, on occasion, on occasions, on the odd occasion, at times, sometimes, off and on, at intervals, periodically, sporadically, spasmodically, erratically, irregularly, intermittently, in/by fits and starts, fitfully, discontinuously, piecemeal
rare interruptedly

once or twice

A few times.
Example sentences
  • Then he visited me once or twice in Oxford, when he was off on one of his miserable summer holidays and was passing through.
  • I had an opportunity to chat with him once or twice, and was immediately impressed by his fund of knowledge.
  • I will try to post perhaps once or twice whilst I am away, using my Dad's computer.

once upon a time

At some time in the past (used as a conventional opening of a story).
Example sentences
  • As the conventional story goes, once upon a time the West slumbered in intellectual darkness.
  • Well once upon a time, which is when my story begins, there was a little boy who lived in that cottage and on a particular summer's afternoon he was standing out in the garden.
  • The boy starts his story once upon a time, knowing that's how stories begin.
11.1Formerly: once upon a time she would have been jealous, but no longer
More example sentences
  • I have four (previously five, and once upon a time, nine) cats, so I have a little experience on this topic.
  • I mean, they were a good band - I loved them once upon a time, and yes I had teenage girl dreams about Robert Plant.
  • Yes, once upon a time, I could read music, thanks to my grandfather.


Middle English ones, genitive of one. The spelling change in the 16th century was in order to retain the unvoiced sound of the final consonant.

Words that rhyme with once


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: once

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