one (wŭn)
1. Being a single entity, unit, object, or living being: »

I ate one peach.

2. Characterized by unity; undivided: »

They spoke with one voice.

3. a) Of the same kind or quality: »

two animals of one species.

b) Forming a single entity of two or more components: »

three chemicals combining into one solution.

4. Being a single member or element of a group, category, or kind: »

I'm just one player on the team.

5. Being a single thing in contrast with or relation to another or others of its kind: »

One day is just like the next.

6. Occurring or existing as something indefinite, as in time or position: »

He will come one day.

7. Occurring or existing as something particular but unspecified, as in time past: »

late one evening.

8. Informal Used as an intensive: »

That is one fine dog.

9. Being the only individual of a specified or implied kind: »

the one person I could marry; the one horse that can win this race.

n. 1) The cardinal number, represented by the symbol 1, designating the first unit in a series. 2) A single person or thing; a unit: »

This is the one I like best. Of her many books, the best ones are the last two.

3) A one-dollar bill.
pron. 1) An indefinitely specified individual: »

She visited one of her cousins.

2) An unspecified individual; anyone: »

"The older one grows the more one likes indecency"

(Virginia Woolf).
at one In accord or unity.
one and all Everyone.
one by one Individually in succession.
[Middle English on, from Old English ān; see oi-no-.]
Usage Note: In formal usage, the pronoun one is sometimes used as a generic pronoun meaning "anyone":

One would hope that train service could be improved.

The informal counterpart of one is

you: You never know what to expect from her.

Trouble arises when one is used in a series of sentences, and there is a need for a relative pronoun to refer back to one. One option is to use one and one's repeatedly, as in

One tries to be careful about where one invests one's money.

But in a sequence of sentences this inevitably becomes tedious. A traditional alternative has been to use

he, him,


his: One tries to be careful about his investments.

This has the drawback of raising the specter of gender bias. Because of these problems, the temptation may arise to switch to you, but this will undoubtedly be distracting to the reader. It is better to use the same generic pronoun throughout. · As a generic pronoun, one should be avoided as the direct object of a verb or a preposition, especially if it comes at the end of the sentence. Thus the sentence

Bad dreams can make one restless

may sound stilted, but

One must not tease the bears or they will attack one

sounds almost ungrammatical. As a subject or in the possessive form, one fares much better.

One should be cordial with one's colleagues

sounds somewhat formal, but is acceptable. · When constructions headed by one appear as the subject of a sentence or relative clause, there may be a question as to whether the verb should be singular or plural. The sentence

One of every ten rotors was found defective

is perfectly grammatical, but sometimes people use plural verbs in such situations, as in

One of every ten rotors have defects.

The Usage Panel has a long tradition of preferring singular verbs in such constructions. In our 1964 survey, 92 percent of the Panel preferred the singular verb in such sentences; in 2001, 99 percent preferred

was found defective

in the example quoted above. · Constructions such as

one of those people who

pose a different problem. Some critics argue that who should be followed by a plural verb in these sentences, as in

He is one of those people who just don't take "no" for an answer.

Their thinking is that the relative pronoun who refers to the plural noun people, not to one. They would extend the rule to constructions with inanimate nouns, as in

The sports car turned out to be one of the most successful products that were ever manufactured in this country.

But the use of the singular verb in these constructions is common, even among the best writers, and the Usage Panel has a long history of division on this matter. In our 1965 survey, 42 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the use of the singular verb in such constructions. Nearly forty years later the Panel's opinion was almost unchanged: in 2001, 40 percent rejected were in the sports car example quoted above. Perhaps the only workable solution to this problem lies in which word sounds most appropriate as the antecedent of the relative pronoun—one or the plural noun in the of phrase that follows it. Note also that when the phrase containing one is introduced by the definite article, the verb in the relative clause must be singular:

He is the only one of the students who has

(not have)

already taken Latin.

· Constructions using

one or more


one or two

always take a plural verb:

One or more cars were parked in front of the house each day this week. One or two students from our department have won prizes.

Note that when followed by a fraction, one ordinarily gets a plural verb:

One and a half years have passed since I last saw her.

The fraction rule has an exception in that amounts are sometimes treated as singular entities:

One and a half cups is enough sugar.

Note also that the plural rule does not apply to these one-plus-a-fraction constructions that are introduced by the indefinite article. These constructions are always singular:

A year and a half has passed since I last saw her.

See Usage Note at HE(Cf. ↑he)1.
Word History: Why do we pronounce one (wŭn) and once (wŭns) while other words derived from one, like only, alone, and atone, are pronounced with a long o? Over time, stressed vowels commonly become diphthongs, as when Latin bona, the feminine singular of the adjective meaning "good," became buona in Italian and buena in Spanish. A similar diphthongization of one and once began in the late Middle Ages in the west of England and in Wales and is first recorded around 1400. The vowel sound underwent a series of changes, such that the word's pronunciation went from (ōn) to (o͞oōn), with two syllables, to (wōn) to (wo͞on) to (wo͝on) and finally to (wŭn). In southwest England, this diphthongization happened to other words beginning with the long o sound, such as oats, pronounced there now as (wŭts). Only in one and once did this diphthongal pronunciation gain widespread usage.

Word Histories. 2014.

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