Where I work some people use "on-pass" in sentences such as "We get data from the stock exchange and on-pass it to our customers" or "We need to on-pass that information to the other team".

Does this mean anything different from "pass on", e.g. "We get data from the stock exchange and pass it on to our customers"?

My impressions are it's more used by people in our American office than in our UK one, also, that it wouldn't be used informally (they don't say "Thanks for the tip, I'll on-pass that to Bob").

Edit: (However I've now heard one person in UK office using it, informally; he didn't know why he used it instead of "pass on" when I asked him nicely about it.)

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    I've never heard that one in AmE. Is it possibly your own office culture? – David M Mar 15 '14 at 21:43
  • Here is an NGRAM It's onpass without a hyphen. But, the usage is nearly nil by comparison. – David M Mar 15 '14 at 21:48

Onpass does come up in two (questionable) dictionaries as a valid word.

But, its usage is very rare. NGRAM shows it to be nearly nil.

I don't think there is any reason to use onpass vs pass on. The meanings are identical, but pass on is likely considered preferable.

If a particular office is using it, it likely is a local (to that office) cultural expression.

  • Er, are there any other dictionaries that recognize "onpass" as a word? – F.E. Mar 15 '14 at 21:58
  • @F.E. Only two. And, they're crappy. But, it plots on an NGRAM. Edited to better reflect that. – David M Mar 15 '14 at 21:59
  • What would those two dictionaries be? – F.E. Mar 15 '14 at 22:00
  • Wiktionary and Nicedefinition.com Neither is to be considered an authority. One other that merely referenced Wiktionary, Wordnik. – David M Mar 15 '14 at 22:01

Onpass is one word, not two. If you were a reporter filing stories by cable, you thus saved a word and the per word cable charge. It was common to omit or combine words to save money.

The usage lingered among reporters for decades after filing by cable became defunct. As late as the early 90's, I recall seeing story line-ups in my computer that began with the ritual phrase: "Onpass all soonest."

And then there is the apocryphal story of the British correspondent in Hong Kong who was completing his tour and cabled: "Request permission ship at company expense personal effects and junk." The reply was "permission granted" at which point the correspondent shipped back to England an entire Chinese junk.


Well, it is clearly corporate jargon. And where it differs from 'pass on' is that there is probably a formal protocol for 'on-passing'.

'On-passes' may be officially recorded and even given individual serial numbers, and there be kept some form of proof that they actually happened.

'Passing on', on the other hand, sounds altogether less formal, more like something you do in the pub after work.

  • Hahahahahahahahahahahahahah. I'm not even sure I fully understand it, but it made me laugh! – David M Mar 15 '14 at 22:13
  • @susan The bit about formal serial numbers and passing on being at a urinal made me laugh. I wasn't sure if he was referring to urinal time disappearing or just lexicon changing due to women in the workplace. That's the part that I found confusing. – David M Mar 15 '14 at 22:52
  • @Susan I am disappointed to have missed your comment. Do please re-post! – WS2 Mar 16 '14 at 9:53
  • There's no formal protocol using it here, but of course it may have migrated from some other office where they have that. I did also wonder if it was originally someone's aversion to saying "passed on" with connotations of "died". – lessthanideal Mar 18 '14 at 13:23
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    @lessthanideal Interesting thought! Perhaps 'on-pass' should be more widely used for that reason. When seated at table perhaps we should on-pass the broccoli or the gravy. – WS2 Mar 18 '14 at 17:12

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