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I had always seen that phrase as "from the outset", but recently I saw somebody writing "from the offset" (meaning "from the beginning").

Dictionary.com claims that "offset" can be a synonym for "outset":

2) the start, beginning, or outset.

Would this mean that both of these phrases are correct? Do certain dialects prefer one over the other? US vs UK usage?

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I'm a US midwesterner...I never heard of "from the offset" - and I'm assuming that is because to me, "offset" is a printing term that describes how the ink is transferred ("offset") from a plate, to a rubber blanket and then to paper or other surface. I've never heard it to be a synonym for "outset". –  Kristina Lopez Jun 19 at 19:22
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I've only heard "offset" as a computer programming or mathematics term, referring to the distance a particular member of a series is from the first. For example, in the sequence of numbers '1,4,7,10', 10 has an offset of 3 from the beginning, since it is 3 entries after the first. –  Matt Gutting Jun 19 at 19:27
    
Wiktionary defines offset as: '' 3 - (obsolete, c. 1555) A time at which something begins; outset.'' However, the Oxford dictionary does not have such a definition. I understand that you should not use offset in this context. –  Archa Jun 19 at 19:27

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

offset can mean the start of something when referring to distances in space:

  • competitors in short races on oval tracks start at offsets from the nominal starting line to account for the curvatures of their lanes
  • web page content might be rendered starting at a horizontal and vertical offset from the edge of the web browser, to allow room for ads
  • computer data is stored physically in computer memory starting at an offset from the begining of the available memory so as not to overwrite memory already in use by other programs

but not when referring to distances in time. And even when referring to space, from the offset is not a standard idiom in the English language (at least not in Google ngrams). It does not make sense without context.

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Thanks, that agrees with my understanding. "From the offset" seems wrong to me. –  bjmc Jun 19 at 22:23
    
yes, from the onset fits much better –  Oldcat Jun 20 at 0:17

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