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ONUS [ˈoʊnəs] is a formal way to say responsibility or duty. It often refers to a difficult, unpleasant or disagreeable obligation, task, burden, etc., while the word responsibility can also have a positive connotation.

"The onus is on companies and consumers to keep up with anti-virus updates."

We all have burdens to bear, and most of them could be referred to as onuses. Don't throw trash on the road – the onus of picking it up doesn’t lie with the government. It is your civic responsibility.

"He bore the onus for having made it possible for the documents to be stolen."

If you say that the onus is on someone to do something, you mean it is their duty or responsibility to do it. If you're the manager, the onus is on you to fire this very amiable but inefficient employee.

"The report puts the onus of children’s early education firmly on the parents."

If you ordered something, then the onus is on you to pay for it. If the onus is on you to organize a fund raiser, you have to set the whole thing up. The onus of caring for the elderly often falls on their children.

"The onus is on employers to follow health and safety laws."

It can also mean responsibility for an error or fault; blame. If you borrowed your friend's textbook and then lost it, you would bear a heavy onus of guilt even if your crime was never discovered.

"Each side wants to avoid the onus of having started the disagreement."

An onus is often durable. It lasts as long as the actual circumstance does, regardless of how many actors enter and exit the stage. You don't talk of having the onus to do an oil change.

"Placing the onus on me, my friend conveniently escaped the tricky situation."

Atlas was condemned by Zeus to forever hold the onus of the Heavens upon his shoulders. When the economy is in a recession, many believe the onus is on the government to pull the country out of it.

"We're all out of ideas; I guess the onus is on you to find a solution."

It comes from Latin, where it means load or burden. It entered English in the 17th century via onus probandi, meaning burden of proof, which requires the accuser to prove the case against the accused. 

"The onus of proof lies with the prosecution."

By the 19th century, it had entered nonlegal usage. Onus and the adjective 'onerous', meaning burdensome, share common Latin roots.

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