Definition of one in English:

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Pronunciation: /wʌn/

cardinal number

1The lowest cardinal number; half of two; 1: there’s only room for one person two could live as cheaply as one one hundred miles a one-bedroom flat (Roman numeral: i, I)
More example sentences
  • We need families to open their hearts and to accept a child into the warmth of their family life for one month a year.
  • We had to wait in line for one hour, and it was another hour before we got our food.
  • The garden is enclosed with shrubs and has parking room for one car at the rear.
1.1A single person or thing: they would straggle home in ones and twos
More example sentences
  • Organising on the job was difficult as it involved chasing up members in ones and twos and having to go back to the job if a member was off sick.
  • You may bid by ones until you reach 60; bids above 60 must be multiples of 5 (65, 70, 75 etc.).
  • Many of us tend to buy products in just ones or twos.
a single, a solitary, a sole, a lone
1.2Just one as opposed to any more or to none at all; single (used for emphasis): her one concern is to save her daughter
More example sentences
  • More of the speakers admit openly that drug smuggling was their one chance at something better.
  • But now she is heading back to Oz and we met up for one last lunch to say our goodbyes.
  • But in the end he lacked the sagacity or the low cunning to do the one thing necessary.
1.3Denoting a particular item of a pair or number of items: electronics is one of his hobbies a glass tube closed at one end
More example sentences
  • It is also not possible for one spouse to sell the marital home from underneath the other.
  • One city in Alaska has 17 different air carriers.
  • The money was spent on posters for one of the wards and pain-relieving equipment.
1.4Denoting a particular but unspecified occasion or period: one afternoon in late October
More example sentences
  • It may even be possible that there were at one time plans for a spire, probably of timber.
  • I woke up early one morning, feeling quite sick.
  • He looked pale and yawned several times, at one point cradling his head in his hands.
some, any, a certain
1.5Used before a name to denote a person who is not known to the reader or hearer; a certain: he worked as a clerk for one Mr Ming
More example sentences
  • The first car to be registered in York belonged to one Mr Edwin Gray of Gray's Court, York.
  • The drama follows the efforts of one Mrs Bennet to marry off her three daughters without any regard for the matter of true love in any such alliances.
  • The hotel has a new man at the helm in the kitchens, one John Hogg from Scotland.
1.6 informal, chiefly North American A noteworthy example of (used for emphasis): the actor was one smart-mouthed troublemaker he was one hell of a snappy dresser
More example sentences
  • As it is, well, they're one hell of a cult band.
  • She's one amazing gal.
  • It's gonna be one big party!
1.7One year old.
Example sentences
  • I want to talk to my little girl who is going to be one today.
1.8One o’clock: I’ll be there at one
More example sentences
  • I started the work at half ten on Sunday night and finished at one on Monday morning.
  • By one in the morning everything was quiet again and we went back to bed.
  • At half past one on a weekday the restaurant was less than half full.
1.9A size of garment or other merchandise denoted by one.
Example sentences
  • Candy dragged me into a shop, where she began sifting through a pile of skirts to find her size (a size one).
  • She wasn't the tall skinny size one or the average size five that so many other girls on T.V. are.
1.10A domino or dice with one spot.
Example sentences
  • It was a curious remark to make for one who dreamed of emulating Alexander the Great.
2The same; identical: all types of training meet one common standard
More example sentences
  • Suddenly these bacteria started swimming all in one direction across the microscope slide and he wondered what they were responding to.
  • I don't think I've ever seen so many golf buggies parked together in one place in my life!
  • Next year all goods will be taxed at the one rate of 15 percent.
3 informal A joke or story: the one about the Englishman, the Irishman, and the Yank
More example sentences
  • And did you hear about the one about the drunk bear, walked into a bar?
  • Ah, Jesus, that's a good one. Is it joking you are?
4 informal An alcoholic drink: a cool one after a day on the water
More example sentences
  • ‘Hey Terry, you only just got here and you've already had one too many’ he said, placing our drinks on a bench.
  • I'm off to the bar for a quick one.
  • I'll be in the bar at 12.30 if anyone fancies one.
5West Indian Alone: the time when you one tackled a field of cane and finished before the others had even started
A use recorded in Old English, becoming obsolete in standard use in the mid 16th century
More example sentences
  • You think only Bella one can go to America.
  • Anansi wanted the pig to eat an' he wanted to eat him one.


1Referring to a person or thing previously mentioned or easily identified: her mood changed from one of moroseness to one of joy her best apron, the white one do you want one?
More example sentences
  • I still have a jersey from 1995 but it's not that white anymore and it was time to get a new one.
  • The men all had Irish accents and one was referred to Jon Jon.
  • She knew she had the face of a teenager, and always hated being referred to as one.
2A person of a specified kind: you’re the one who ruined her life my friends and loved ones
More example sentences
  • One feels for police who have to inform families that one of their loved ones has just been killed.
  • He's not one for making a fuss.
  • She's the one who broke all my equipment.
2.1A person who is remarkable in some way: you never saw such a one for figures
More example sentences
  • Your photo of Susan Brookes of whom very few have heard, proclaimed her to be such a one.
  • Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.
  • Oh you are a one - you've got me talking about my body already, and we hardly know each other!
3 [third person singular] Used to refer to the speaker, or any person, as representing people in general: one must admire him for his willingness one gets the impression that he is ahead
More example sentences
  • It is in the context of such fears that choosing the sex of one's children must seem tempting.
  • What is one to make, for example, of the way he is said to have behaved?
  • Was this before, or after an encounter with Mr Knight, one is compelled to ask?


In modern English the use of one as a pronoun to mean ‘anyone’ or ‘me and people in general’, as in one must try one’s best, is generally restricted to formal contexts, outside which it is likely to be regarded as rather pompous or old-fashioned. In informal and spoken contexts the normal alternative is you, as in you have to do what you can, don’t you?.



at one

In agreement or harmony: they were completely at one with their environment
More example sentences
  • United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be at one, that you may long together dwell in unity and concord!
  • Reporters covering the war are at one with their technology as never before.
  • What was less satisfactory was that the documentation and the underlying philosophy did not appear to be at one.

for one

Used to stress that the person named holds the specified view, even if no one else does: I for one am getting a little sick of writing about it
More example sentences
  • I for one am very proud of our NHS in Wiltshire and they deserve our praise not our criticism.
  • The bookmakers, for one, weren't taking too many bets outside of the Gauls and the Poms.
  • I for one am looking forward to the publication of the Butler Report on Wednesday.

get it in one

informal Understand or succeed in guessing something immediately: ‘You’re just trying to distract me.’ She grinned. ‘Got it in one!’
More example sentences
  • Three guesses as to what that might be… yes, you got it in one: the newly released Academic Legal Writing, written by a contributor to this blog.
  • When Edna says ‘Men of Bob's age are unstable, prone to weakness ’, she's got it in one.
  • Yup, you got it in one: companies would over-charge customers for the life assurance cover as well.

have one over the eight

see eight.

one after another (or the other)

Following each other in quick succession: one after another the buses drew up
More example sentences
  • The firefighters made a chair by linking arms and carried the couple out, one after the other, to a waiting boat moored to their garden gate.
  • She ran her two best times of the year, one after the other.
  • I ate 10 bars of chocolate one after the other when I was feeling very low.

one and all

Everyone: well done one and all!
More example sentences
  • A sincere thanks to one and all and best wishes to everyone for a very Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.
  • A good time was had by one and all and there are no complaints.
  • We had a lovely session at our ManchesterSummit, introducing one and all to Blogging.

one and only

Unique; single (used for emphasis or as a designation of a celebrity): the title of his one and only book the one and only Muhammad Ali
More example sentences
  • Indeed the one and only, the inimitable John Dillon had delivered free traffic to Dublin.
  • So I suppose this entry could count as my obligatory, one and only, intoxicated post.
  • This appears to be Harper Lee's one and only novel, and justifiably considered a classic.

one by one

Separately and in succession; singly.
Example sentences
  • He looked at each man in the room one by one and warned them icily what would happen if they were foolish enough to talk.
  • The steps, which have been blocked off since the end of July, are being replaced one by one.
  • To her horror, he doesn't stop there and goes on to admit all his crimes one by one.

one day

see day.
Example sentences
  • I like the guy and hope that one day he fulfills his potential as the next great Knicks superstar.
  • One day, Frank invited me over to his place to see his audio gear.
  • One day, perhaps, I will get to witness a performance of the whole of the ballet, rather than selections.

one for one

Denoting or referring to a situation in which one thing corresponds to or is exchanged for another: these donations would be matched on a one-for-one basis with public revenues
More example sentences
  • Even the simple one-for-one replacement of existing light sources with new, high efficiency sources will produce significant savings.
  • However, I don't see why we can't get a one for one replacement.
  • He liked to trade punches with people, one for one.

one of a kind

see kind1.

one or another (or the other)

Denoting or referring to a particular but unspecified one out of a set of items: not all instances fall neatly into one or another of these categories
More example sentences
  • There's only one explanation, and that is that one or the other of them went through our garbage and stole from it.
  • We always create in layers, using many elements, so that if you took away one or another of the elements there would still be a song there.
  • Each block is labeled with the name of one or another of the characters.

one or two

informal A few: there are one or two signs worth watching for
More example sentences
  • What further annoyed me was that there were one or two vacant seats but these were reserved.
  • Football wouldn't be the addictive game it is if it didn't throw up one or two surprises.
  • One or two of his performers are experienced semiprofessionals who have competed in regional story-telling competitions.

one thing and another

informal Used to cover various unspecified matters or events: what with one thing and another she hadn’t had much sleep recently
More example sentences
  • He said: ‘Farmers, landowners and rural businesses of all types have had a rough time recently with one thing and another.’
  • Between one thing and another (we both have lives in non-blogosphere reality) it's taken the better part of two months to iron out the bugs.
  • There has been so much building here, we have been swamped by houses and one thing and another.

the one

A person regarded as one’s destined life partner: it sounds corny, but I think he’s the one
More example sentences
  • Some people never meet the one.
  • In other words, my philosophy (and recently confirmed with the women) is that you may miss out on one person you think is the one, but hey, there are others out there that may even better.
  • Well, I thought she could really (I mean it) be the one.


Old English ān, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch een and German ein, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin unus. The initial w sound developed before the 15th century and was occasionally represented in the spelling; it was not accepted into standard English until the late 17th century.

  • Like the other main number words, one goes back to Old English. It shares an ancient root with Latin unus, and so is linked with such words as unique (early 17th century), unity (Middle English), and unison (Late Middle English). The one that got away is a term for something desirable that has eluded capture. The phrase comes from the angler's traditional way of trying to impress by boasting ‘You should have seen the one that got away’. A one-horse town is a small town with hardly any facilities, particularly in the USA. Such towns are associated with the Wild West, and the term is first recorded in a US magazine of 1855. The previous year, though, there is a record of a specific place of that name: ‘The principal mining localities are…Whiskey Creek, One Horse Town, One Mule Town, Clear Creek [etc.].’ Also American is the one-trick pony, a person with only one talent or area of expertise. This goes back to the days of travelling circuses in the early 20th century. It would be a poor circus whose pony had only one trick. Once and future refers to someone or something that is eternal, enduring, or constant. It probably comes from T. H. White's The Once and Future King (1958), a series of novels about King Arthur. In White's story the enchanter Merlyn says to Arthur: ‘Do you know what is going to be written on your tombstone? Hic jacet Arthurus Rex quondam Rexque futurus. Do you remember your Latin? It means, the once and future king.’ A bad experience can make you wary of the same thing happening again, a feeling which might be summed up concisely with the words once bitten, twice shy. The expression has been around since the late 19th century, although in the USA you might say instead once burned, twice shy.

Words that rhyme with one

begun, bun, done, Donne, dun, fine-spun, forerun, fun, gun, Gunn, hon, Hun, none, nun, one-to-one, outdone, outgun, outrun, plus-one, pun, run, shun, son, spun, stun, sun, ton, tonne, tun, underdone, Verdun, won

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: one

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