We all know the phrase: "The onus of proof is on you" or "The onus is on you to do some thing or the other."

Ok, so the onus was put on me and I have done that thing or the other. Now, with respect to the onus, what have I done? Have I "carried the onus"? "Met the onus"? That doesn't sound right. And I haven't "removed the onus", that's just undoing it being put on me.

So what's the word or phrase I'm looking for?

  • 8
    I bore the onus of dealing with the problem.
    – Lambie
    Apr 26, 2017 at 20:04
  • 20
    @Lambie Sounds onerous to me.
    – tchrist
    Apr 26, 2017 at 21:13
  • 6
    'We all know the phrase: "The onus of proof is on you" or "The onus is on you to do some thing or the other.' Nope - I don't. I have never heard the word onus used where a single action can discharge it. You can use burden for that, but not, I think, onus. The onus is a feature of the general situation, not something that can be opted for on a case by case basis. So unless the situation changes, you're going to be buried with that thing. The onus of caring for the elderly often falls on their children. If you want a dischargeable obligation, I think you must go with a different word.
    – Phil Sweet
    Apr 26, 2017 at 21:24
  • 6
    "You can use burden for that, but not, I think, onus." Onus is just Latin for burden. Apr 27, 2017 at 20:15
  • 4
    Just be careful with your vowels when you discharge your onus.
    – copper.hat
    Apr 29, 2017 at 4:44

5 Answers 5


The onus has been discharged.

See, for example this extract from Equity and Trusts: Text, Cases and Materials by Paul S. Davies, which refers to a case called Re Harwood, and cites an extract from the judge's decision:

'The evidence in this case is so unsatisfactory that I cannot say that the onus has been discharged'

If an onus is discharged, it means the person on whom it rested has taken care of it. It doesn't mean that someone has decided they don't need to do it. In the specific example here, the judge was saying the evidence in the case was so poor that he couldn't decide whether the onus had been discharged at all.

A person may 'bear a burden' or 'have an onus placed on him', in just the same way that someone can hand you responsibility for something, metaphorically speaking. But once that burden has been dealt with (fully), the onus is lifted or discharged. "Discharging an onus" - in legal terms - simply means doing what needed to be done; there's no implication of it being 'early'. Finally, just because a term is used in legal works doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be used in more general conversation too. 1:

  • 33
    You can get a cream for that.
    – Kieran
    Apr 27, 2017 at 11:26
  • 1
    It seems to be saying the onus still rests on the person providing evidence as they have not provided satisfactory evidence (the onus is not discharged).
    – Luke
    Apr 27, 2017 at 18:26
  • Kiloran_speaking, please have a look at the discussion in the comments on @ab2's reply (which is a detailed version of yours).
    – einpoklum
    Apr 27, 2017 at 21:06
  • 1
    @Kieran: That was an excrement remark!
    – copper.hat
    May 4, 2017 at 23:12

Let's look first at the definition of onus, from the Oxford English Dictionary:

  1. A burden; a responsibility or duty. Freq. with the

  2. orig. and chiefly Law. onus of proof n. the obligation to prove an assertion or allegation one makes; the burden of proof

For the Definition #2, you can discharge the onus. From Employment Law, Practical Handbook:

How to discharge the onus of proof in an adverse action claim.......

The Court identified the following as circumstances in which the employer might not discharge the onus of proof – but ruled that none of them applied in this case:

  • the managers’ evidence is discredited in cross-examination;

  • the managers’ evidence is inherently implausible;

  • objective facts contradict the managers’ evidence

(You don't want me to quote more, do you? :))

Thus, I suggest that once you have disposed of whatever obligations (legal or otherwise) you assumed when you assumed the onus, you have discharged the onus.

Example (made up): I discharged the onus of providing refreshments for the after-game party by buying a lot of frozen goodies and microwaving them.

Addendum Provided at Request of the OP:

From Discharging the onus in adverse action claims - What employers can do in the post-Barclay environment: (Partial quote only; see full article for all the riveting facts. Note also that this is from Australia.)

If Mr Crompton engaged in industrial activity, did BHP discharge the onus of proof?

Justice Collier noted that if she was wrong and that Mr Crompton had engaged in industrial activity, then BHP Coal bore the onus of proving that it did not dismiss Mr Crompton for that reason. Her Honour referred to the decision of Chief Justice French and Justice Crennan in Barclay, affirming that “the question of why the decision maker [in an alleged case of adverse action] has acted is one of fact.”

Justice Collier accepted BHP Coal’s submission that it had discharged that onus, and found that BHP Coal’s decision makers were satisfied that Mr Crompton had engaged in serious misconduct by “improperly directing co-workers when to work or not work” and “engaging in physical and verbal abuse of a co-worker.”

A reason for this conclusion was that Justice Collier preferred the evidence of BHP Coal’s representatives over Mr Crompton’s testimony. In choosing to accept the BHP Coal personnel as credible witnesses, Justice Collier placed considerable emphasis on the thorough internal investigation conducted by Ms Jorja Roberts (HR Adviser) and Mr Mark Stroppiana (HR Manager) of BHP Coal

The way I read this, and I am not a lawyer, is that the coal company had the burden of proving it had fired the employee because he had misbehaved, not because he had engaged in industrial activity; the coal company proved it to the satisfaction of the court, and so discharged the onus of proof.

  • 8
    @Lambie So sue me. :)
    – ab2
    Apr 26, 2017 at 22:56
  • 10
    I looked up "discharge the onus" in Google, but autocorrect got the better of me. The image results which followed were... not encouraging.
    – flith
    Apr 27, 2017 at 11:07
  • 6
    @flith my brain autocorrected your username to "filth" and i thought: how appropriate
    – Luke
    Apr 27, 2017 at 18:29
  • 2
    That's like saying "quantum jump" should never be used in ordinary English because it has a precise meaning in physics. Who sez? I am confident that one can discharge a non-legal onus. See my example in comment under your question of Martha, who found an acceptable facility for her elderly parents; she discharged that onus, although the longer term onus of visiting and making sure her parents were being cared for properly fell from her shoulders only when the parents died. She might have transferred that onus to a sibling if, for example, she moved 2,500 miles away.
    – ab2
    Apr 27, 2017 at 22:33
  • 3
    I'd agree with ab2 on this. A person may 'bear a burden' or 'have an onus placed on him', in just the same way that someone can hand you responsibility for something, metaphorically speaking. But once that burden has been dealt with (fully), the onus is lifted or discharged. "Discharging an onus" - in legal terms - simply means doing what needed to be done; there's no implication of it being 'early'. Similarly, and as ab2 said, just because a term is used in legal works doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be used in more general conversation too. Apr 28, 2017 at 6:46

What you are wanting to do doesn't work with the word onus because the onus doesn't go away.

Consider "the onus of caring for the elderly usually falls on their children".

It doesn't matter if Wednesday is your day in the barrel, the onus doesn't get vanquished in the way a to-do list entry does. At least we don't talk about it in that manner. An onus is durable. It lasts as long as the actual circumstance does, regardless of how many actors enter and exit the stage. You don't talk of having the onus to do an oil change.

The idea of discharging an onus is nearly always cast in the negative or the very unlikely.

Some usage examples-

The purchase of guaranteed railways owned by foreign companies likewise added largely to the bonded indebtedness, though the onus was in existence in another form.


If so, apologetics is literally a science, and it is pedantry to claim the defensive and pretend to throw the onus probandi upon objectors.

Read more at http://sentence.yourdictionary.com/onus#D366q73Z7a0D2BBH.99

The onus is on my generation to remember the previous chapters in Anglo-Jewry's story.


  • In your example, the onus goes away. "The onus of proof" - goes away when you provide the proof. In at least two of your three examples, the onus similarly goes away.
    – einpoklum
    Apr 26, 2017 at 23:01
  • 1
    I'm more familiar with the non-legal meaning of onus as something non-trivial that persists until the underlying situation changes. So, +1. But the OED has several examples of onus as a job that has to be done. "1884 Manch. Examiner 23 May 5/2 On the companies would be thrown the onus of bringing forward a Bill for a new classification of maximum rates.....1955 Times 24 May 13/5 The onus is on the seller to obtain a certificate of roadworthiness from an approved testing station before he hands over his car to the purchaser
    – ab2
    Apr 26, 2017 at 23:27
  • The problem is a somewhat poor choice of terminology. The "onus of proof" never goes away, but it can be met (e.g., by providing the proof). The onus is still there (still upon you), it's just that you've met the obligation, so it is no longer an issue. Apr 27, 2017 at 7:13
  • @CodyGray: The onus of proof is not on me after I've met it. The metaphor I use is that of a "beast of burden": You put some onus (burden) on it, and then the onus is on it - continuously, but eventually it bears the burden all the way to the destination, and then it bears it no further.
    – einpoklum
    Apr 27, 2017 at 21:37
  • Because the situation changed such that the burden no longer applies. Just like when a trial ends. It doesn't go away because you're borne the burden, otherwise just setting the load on the ox would be sufficient. Apr 28, 2017 at 8:22

TL;DR: "I have borne the onus".

Having read the various answers, I've noticed that onus is Latin for burden. That means one may theoretically borrow burden-related terms. While discharging the onus seems relevant in some contexts (especially legal ones), I feel it intimates too strong a sense of immediacy. Instead, bearing the onus has the connotation of being both an ongoing activity and something that concludes eventually ("bearing weight" and "bearing fruit"). Also, think of the following allegorical tale:

  • You're like a carriage, or a horse, or a mule
  • Someone places some weight on you - a burden, an onus
  • You travel, make your way, gradually
  • When you reach your destination, the weight is lifted; perhaps at this moment the burden or onus is discharged

Overall, I'd say you've borne the burden, or the onus, in this story.

  • 1
    Yep, to bear an onus. For sure.
    – Lambie
    Apr 26, 2017 at 20:03
  • 1
    To me, this is fine if you want to focus on "the process of doing what was required" but as I think you imply, it doesn't really give any sense of "I have successfully completed what was required."
    – Hellion
    Apr 26, 2017 at 21:20
  • @Hellion: But it implies it via the metaphor of something having been assigned for you to bear. But I guess I see what you mean.
    – einpoklum
    Apr 26, 2017 at 22:14
  • @tmgr: I had mis-corrected my earlier answer to correspond to the title. I've changed it back.
    – einpoklum
    Dec 30, 2018 at 21:22
  • @einpoklum I'm still not convinced that it actually answers the question, as bear refers to the period when the onus is upon you, not the conclusion or shifting of the burden. More to the point, the whole answer seems to be largely supposition and it would be greatly improved by having some kind of evidence behind it... if possible.
    – tmgr
    Dec 31, 2018 at 1:34

You don't meet the onus, onus is just responsiblity, it only dissapears when the responsibility doesn't come to you any more. Past tense the onus was on you. "The onus was on me to ensure the chocolate was fully stocked"

But it's not like a contract that's waiting to be fulfilled as you seem to be using it.

You can say "there's no onus" to indicate its gone, or "there's no onus on me now" etc.

  • If "onus" is just "responsibility", why can't one meet it, when one certainly can meet a responsibility?
    – mattdm
    Apr 30, 2017 at 8:29
  • 1
    Because they're different words. Why can't I say "I have onus for stocking the chocolate?" ? because onus is always ON something - onus and responsibility mean the same thing but they're not the same word. Words have rules. Onus is NEVER met. If I google "Onus is met", the first true positive I get is THIS post. The whole of the English language and this post is nearly the top post - that should tell you, no-one uses these words ever.
    – Timo
    May 22, 2017 at 10:19

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