If you are doing something without assistance you can be said to be doing that thing on your own.
Cambridge defines the phrase as follows:
If you do something on your own, you do it without help from anyone else: Bridget learned to tie her shoes on her own when she was three.
The phrase is also used to simply indicate that you are alone.
I am on my own
I am interested to know how this phrase came about.
The following entries are listed for 'on' as a preposition in Oxford Living Dictionaries:
- Physically in contact with and supported by (a surface).
- Forming a distinctive or marked part of the surface of.
- Having (the thing mentioned) as a topic; about.
- As a member of (a committee, jury, or other body).
- Having (the thing mentioned) as a target, aim, or focus.
- (often followed by a noun without a determiner) having (the thing mentioned) as a medium for transmitting or storing information.
- In the course of (a journey).
- Indicating the day or part of a day during which an event takes place.
- Engaged in.
- Regularly taking (a drug or medicine).
- Paid for by.
- Added to.
The possible options as far as I can tell for how 'on' is acting in this phrase from the above list are: 3 or 5. But none seem a perfect fit.
3. Having (the thing mentioned) as a topic; about.
The example given in the dictionary is:
‘a book on careers’
In the phrase on your own, perhaps the point is you are your own subject matter? It hardly seems a perfect fit for usage however and would be some kind of metaphorical use of yourself as your own subject matter.
5. Having (the thing mentioned) as a target, aim, or focus.
The example given is:
'five air raids on Schweinfurt’
‘thousands marching on Washington’
‘her eyes were fixed on his dark profile’
Perhaps 'on' is indicating that you are the aim, focus, or target of your own attention? Again it hardly seems like the same kind of usage.
My question is, what is the etymology of the phrase "On my/your/own own"?
In your answer you might address some or all of these points:
- How is on acting in the phrase?
- Cambridge states the use is idiomatic, when was it first used?
- How did it come to take on its present meaning?