one(-)off » one(-)of

Classification: English – off «» of

Spotted in the wild:

  • “I was under the impression it was a one of fee not an annual one.” (link)
  • “Perhaps, rather predictably, the mainstream media coverage of WSF portrayed it as a one-of event.” (link)
  • “I worked out a lot and am getting better, its a brilliant price for a one of payment to have your personal trainer for life.” (link)

I came across this one a week ago when my friend Ken Rudolph offered “one-off” as an eggcorn for “one of” ‘one-time, unique’ (which he took to be a shortening of “one of a kind”); he had considerable difficulty accepting my claim that “one-off” (which made no sense to him) was the original. (In comments on this site, Arthraey Angosii similarly identified “one-off” as the innovation, though Nigel Pond countered that it was the correct version.)

Nevertheless, the OED has the adjective “one-off” from 1934 and the noun from 1947, and has (as yet) no entry for “one of” (in the relevant sense).

My thanks to Chris Waigl for figuring out how to search for cites on this one and offering me the products of this search.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/07/31 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Carlos da Roza , 2005/08/12 at 10:50 pm

    Time magazine has also used the term “one-off” in its August 1st issue (Viewpoint) and has responded that “according to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, “one-off” is
    apparently a British import and means “limited to a single time, occasion
    or instance: one-shot, unique.”".

    It sure would be nice to be able to trace the etymology and references of early use. “One-off” just doesn’t make sense.

  2. 2

    Commentary by Adrian Bailey , 2005/09/23 at 11:49 am

    It makes perfect sense to me. And since it’s pronounced “one-off” rather than “one of” I find it hard to understand why antyone would write the latter. It’s been discussed elesewhere, but it should be mentioned that “off” is often used instead of “of” in warehousing/supply terminology. A list of requirements might say: “Dickle Flanges, 300 off; Baboon Wrenches, 12 off”, etc. Is this a British-only usage?

    Adrian (England)

  3. 3

    Commentary by Nigel Pond , 2005/09/23 at 5:45 pm

    As far as I am concerned, one-off (properly hyphenated) is correct British usage. I have never heard it pronounced one of in the UK.

  4. 4

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2005/09/27 at 6:50 pm

    In response to the previous commentaries: The entry says very clearly that “one-off” is the original (and still correct) version. There’s not a lot of point in telling us that you’re unfamiliar with “one-of”; until I started working on eggcorns, I was unfamiliar with most of the ones we’ve collected, “eggcorn” itself included.

    I might have added that, as Carlos da Roza notes, it’s an import from the U.K. to the U.S.; the OED Online doesn’t have an American cite until 2003.

    Next, though Adrian Bailey finds that it makes perfect sense to him, he’s presumably heard and read it in context. It’s hard to imagine what you’d do with the expression if you’d never come across it before (note da Roza’s reaction); it certainly isn’t semantically transparent.

    Finally, my guess is that the Americans — so far they’re all Americans, I believe — who’ve opted for “one-of” encountered the expression for the first time in print, rather than in speech. (Or they learned it from someone who’d had this experience.) Finding it incomprehensible, they assumed it was a typo, for an expression related to “one of a kind”.

  5. 5

    Commentary by Alan Olsen , 2006/03/09 at 5:09 am

    Of course it makes no sense, it’s British! I think it should be Americanized to “the” one-off.

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