Key Difference – Onset vs Outset
Many people confuse the two nouns onset and outset since both of them refer to the beginning of something. However, there is a distinct difference between onset and outset since they are used in different contexts. Outset refers to the beginning of an action or event, often when the said event/action has already started. Onset is typically used to refer to a beginning of an unpleasant action or event. This is the key difference between onset and outset.
What Does Onset Mean?
Onset generally refers to the beginning of something. This noun is defined by the American Heritage as “The beginning or start of something” whereas the Oxford dictionary defines it as “the beginning of something, especially something unpleasant”. This definition implies that onset is used with reference to unpleasant events. This noun is typically observed with reference to the beginning of a disease, or the start of a harsh and difficult period of time. Observe the following examples to understand the meaning and usage of this noun more clearly.
The symptoms indicated the onset of a cold.
They always collected food and other essentials before the onset of the harsh winter.
The onset of the war has increased the prices of everything.
I struggled to resist the creeping onset of fear.
As evident from the above example sentences, onset is typically used to describe the beginning of an unpleasant event. If we look at the grammatical aspect of this noun, you will notice that it is always followed by the preposition “of”. (onset of war, onset of fear, onset of winter, etc.).
Onset also has archaic meaning “attack or assault” although this meaning is not commonly used today.
What Does Outset Mean?
Outset also refers to the beginning or start of something. However, unlike onset, outset does not refer to the beginning of an unpleasant event. Read the following example sentences to understand the meaning and usage of this noun more clearly.
Their marriage was doomed from the outset.
You should have made your demands clear at the very outset of the agreement.
He made it clear from the outset that he didn’t like us.
Maria and Peter have been facing a lot of problems from the outset of their relationship.
In the above examples, you can observe that outset is either preceded by the preposition “from” or “at“. Moreover, all the examples above refer back to the past, i.e., the event/action described has already been started. Thus, outset is usually used to describe events that have already started.
What is the difference between Onset and Outset?
Onset vs Outset
|Onset refers to the start or beginning of something, typically something unpleasant.||Outset refers to the beginning or initial stages of something.|
|Onset implies something unpleasant or negative.||Outset doesn’t have any negative connotations.|
|This noun is followed by the preposition ‘of’.||This noun is preceded by the preposition ‘from’ or ‘at’.|
|Onset can be used to refer to the beginning of events that have not yet started.||Outset can be used to refer to events that have been already started.|
Summary – Onset vs Outset
Onset and outset are two words that refer to the beginning or start of something. Since these two nouns have similar meanings, they are often confused by new users; however, there is a subtle difference between onset and outset. Onset is usually used to refer to the beginning of something unpleasant whereas outset is used to refer to something that has already started.
1. “September snow on CO 82 near Independence Pass” By Shay Haas. Color-corrected by Daniel Case prior to upload – Independence Pass-49 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2.”1245776″ (Public Domain) via Pixabay