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On-premises ... On-premise

I see these terms frequently used to describe software systems hosted within a company's datacenter vs. software systems hosted externally by a third party (in the "cloud"). The term is also frequently abbreviated to "on-prem" or "OnPrem" or similar with the same meaning. The full spelling is the issue.

I take "premises" means the environ of a company or organization, whereas I take "premise" means the basis for a logical argument.

Is there any valid usage of "premise" sans "S" to mean a company, or is it simply slangy misspelling of "premises"?

Related: As the plural of "premise" in the logical argument sense is "premises", does this cloud the issue a little?

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This might help your related question: Plural of premise –  KitFox Jun 9 '11 at 17:12
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Thanks Kit! The plural form clearly clouds the issue... !! –  Wade Henderson Jun 9 '11 at 17:34
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Come to think of it, the answer here might answer your question: Pluralization rule for adjectives if we think of on-premise and on-premises as compound adjectives. –  KitFox Jun 9 '11 at 17:37
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Premises is a curious word. The etymology as far as I understand is something plucked out of a legal document.¹

On the title deed of the document, the land or buildings are described at the start: they are the premise, which is to say the stated basis on which the rest of the document is based. So it might say

the property at 100 High Street, and surrounding land out, 100 yards north, and all attached and free standing buildings, including air rights, and right of free passage to the adjoining highway

(which is a mouthful). Then, the document proceeds,

these premises are rented to the Mr. John Smith, and John Smith is obliged to maintain these premises in good working order, and the lawn of the premises must be kept well

and so forth.

Premises is the plural of premise, a legal term meaning “the aforementioned thing”.² This was then plucked out of the contract to be used as a more general term to refer to the property and all the adjoining stuff. Eventually, the word took on a meaning of its own, and came to mean a building, or land or something similar.

So, I suppose the answer to your question is both yes and no. In the idiomatic usage referring to a building or land, it is always plural, but in its origin it can be singular.

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Thanks @Fraser-Orr. This explains the information I've seen online and reinforces my thinking that On-Premises with "S" is the correct spelling. I appreciate the help! –  Wade Henderson Jun 13 '11 at 14:31
    
And in non-legal writing, premise doesn’t mean aforementioned but the foundational proposition or theme of an argument or story. –  Jon Purdy Jan 1 '13 at 20:07
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Neither premise nor premises actually means a company. Premises refers to

a piece of land together with its buildings, esp considered as a place of business

According to Dictionary.com, both premises (plural noun) and premise (singular noun) can have this meaning. Both can also refer to logical propositions.

The answer I pointed you toward would seem to indicate that on-premise ought to be the proper adjective, although you could probably make a good argument for on-premises if you assert that "premises" in this meaning is a singular collective noun.

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Hmmm, I read dictionary.com differently. Since definition 2 is specifically noted with the "S", that indicates to me that the tract of land part (and by implication the company, see below) requires the pluralized form. Do you agree? –  Wade Henderson Jun 9 '11 at 19:50
    
I do agree with your comment about the company part. It is implied in this usage. –  Wade Henderson Jun 9 '11 at 19:53
    
That's a good question and a good observation. I read it to mean that the two words are interchangeable, but I don't know that for certain. And its also why I thought you could make a plausible argument for premises as a singular noun. –  KitFox Jun 9 '11 at 19:54
    
More food for thought: the Wikipedia artice on Premises suggests that in this usage the form should always be plural. I haven't found corroboration anywhere else. Common usage is inconsistent leading to my questions. –  Wade Henderson Jun 9 '11 at 20:02
    
I think maybe you should re-title your question "Is premises always plural?" or something like that. Your title looks like you are asking about the hyphenation rule. Then we might find someone who really knows the answer for sure. –  KitFox Jun 9 '11 at 20:06
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protected by Jasper Loy Jan 2 '13 at 8:34

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