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On the possibility that, as in I came early on the chance that we might have time to chat. This phrase uses chance in the sense of “a possibility or probability for some event,” a usage dating from the late 1700s. It is sometimes put as on the off chance, meaning “on the slight but unlikely possibility,” as in I came late on the off chance that I could avoid Thomas. The addition of off in the sense of “remote” dates from the mid-1800s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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