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8 Words That Are Older Than You Think

onion

[uhn-yuh n] /ˈʌn yən/
noun
1.
a plant, Allium cepa, of the amaryllis family, having an edible, succulent, pungent bulb.
2.
any of certain similar plants.
3.
the bulb of the onion plant.
4.
the flavor or odor of this bulb.
5.
Slang. a person:
He's a tough onion.
adjective
6.
containing or cooked with onions:
onion soup.
7.
of, pertaining to, or resembling an onion.
Idioms
8.
know one's onions, Slang. to know one's subject or business thoroughly; be capable or proficient.
Origin
1325-1375
1325-75; Middle English onyon < Old French oignon < Latin ūniōn- (stem of ūniō) a unity, large pearl, onion; see union
Related forms
onionlike, adjective
oniony, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for onion
  • In a medium sauté pan melt the butter and add the dried onion and rice.
  • Let's face it, a chopped onion isn't nearly as beautiful as an onion whole.
  • Brats chopped and mixed with pickled purple cabbage and onion.
  • We produce tears in response to insults to the eyes-the sting of onion fumes, a tiny insect that flew into your cornea.
  • Bret should probably peel back another layer of that rotten onion.
  • Cook two tablespoons of butter with one tablespoon of finely chopped onion, until yellow.
  • Cook one onion, finely chopped, in two tablespoons butter five minutes.
  • Cook two tablespoons butter with one sliced onion five minutes.
  • Cook five minutes two tablespoons butter with one-half tablespoon finely chopped onion.
  • Drain one can corn and season with mustard and onion juice.
British Dictionary definitions for onion

onion

/ˈʌnjən/
noun
1.
an alliaceous plant, Allium cepa, having greenish-white flowers: cultivated for its rounded edible bulb
2.
the bulb of this plant, consisting of concentric layers of white succulent leaf bases with a pungent odour and taste
3.
any of several related plants similar to A. cepa, such as A. fistulosum (Welsh onion)
4.
(Brit, slang) know one's onions, to be fully acquainted with a subject
Derived Forms
oniony, adjective
Word Origin
C14: via Anglo-Norman from Old French oignon, from Latin unio onion, related to union
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for onion
n.

early 12c., from Anglo-French union, Old French oignon "onion" (formerly also oingnon), and directly from Latin unionem (nominative unio), colloquial rustic Roman for "a kind of onion," also "pearl" (via notion of a string of onions), literally "one, unity;" sense connection is the successive layers of an onion, in contrast with garlic or cloves.

Old English had ynne (in ynne-leac), from the same Latin source, which also produced Irish inniun, Welsh wynwyn and similar words in Germanic. In Dutch, the ending in -n was mistaken for a plural inflection and new singular ui formed. The usual Indo-European name is represented by Greek kromion, Irish crem, Welsh craf, Old English hramsa, Lithuanian kremuse.

The usual Latin word was cepa, a loan from an unknown language; it is the source of Old French cive, Old English cipe, and, via Late Latin diminutive cepulla, Italian cipolla, Spanish cebolla, Polish cebula. German Zwiebel also is from this source, but altered by folk etymology in Old High German (zwibolla) from words for "two" and "ball." Onion ring is attested from 1952.

Onion dome attested from 1956; onion grass from 1883; onion skin as a type of paper from 1892. Onions, the surname, is attested from mid-12c. (Ennian), from Old Welsh Enniaun, ultimately from Latin Annianus, which was associated with Welsh einion "anvil."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for onion

onion

noun

The head (1890+)

Related Terms

know one's onions, off one's noodle


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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onion in the Bible

The Israelites in the wilderness longed for the "onions and garlick of Egypt" (Num. 11:5). This was the _betsel_ of the Hebrews, the Allium cepe of botanists, of which it is said that there are some thirty or forty species now growing in Palestine. The onion is "the 'undivided' leek, _unio_, _unus_, one."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with onion
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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