AskDefine | Define onus

Dictionary Definition

onus n : an onerous or difficult concern; "the burden of responsibility"; "that's a load off my mind" [syn: burden, load, encumbrance, incumbrance]

User Contributed Dictionary



Latin for 'burden'.



  1. A legal obligation.
    The onus is on the landlord to make sure the walls are protected from mildew.
  2. Burden of proof
    The onus is on those who disagree with my proposal to explain why.
  3. Stigma.
  4. Blame.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

William McLintock Onus (Lin Onus) (December 26, 1948 - October 24, 1996 was a Scottish-Aboriginal Koori Artist of Wiradjuri descent from Melbourne, Australia.
Onus was a largely self-taught artist who began as a motor mechanic before making artifacts for the tourist market with his father's business, Aboriginal Enterprise Novelties. Onus was a successful painter, sculptor and maker of prints. His painting Barmah Forest won Canberra's national Aboriginal Heritage Award in 1994.
Onus' works often involve symbolism from Aboriginal styles of painting, along with recontextualisation of modern artistic elements. The images in his works include haunting portrayals of the Barmah red gum forests of his father's ancestral country, and the use of rarrk cross-hatching-based based painting style that he learned (and was given permission to use) when visiting the Indigenous communities of Maningrida.
His most famous work, Michael and I are just slipping down to the pub for a moment, has been featured on a postcard, and is a reference to his colleague, artist Michael Eather.



Further reading

  • Amanda Ladds, 'The Reconciler', The Blurb, Issue 27
  • Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Onus, L., Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, 2001
  • Alan McCulloch, Susan McCulloch and Emily McCulloch Childs, 'Onus, Lin', in The New McCulloch's Encyclopedia of Australian Art (4th edition), Melbourne University Publishing, 1992
  • Mary Travers, 'Death of Lin Onus', Art Monthly Australia, no. 96, 1996, p. 43
  • Humphrey McQueen, 'Art Indigneous - Onus', retrieved July 2007
  • Louise Bellamy, 'Onus goes on show', The Age (newspaper), 23 February 2005

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

absolute indication, allegiance, arraignability, arraignableness, aspersion, assigned task, attaint, badge of infamy, bar sinister, baton, bend sinister, black eye, black mark, blameworthiness, bloody hands, blot, blur, bounden duty, brand, broad arrow, burden, burden of proof, burthen, business, call of duty, cargo, censurability, censurableness, censure, champain, charge, chargeability, commitment, complicity, conclusive evidence, criminality, cross, culpability, cumbrance, damning evidence, deadweight, dedication, deference, demonstration, determination, devoir, devotion, difficulty, dirty hands, disadvantage, disparagement, duties and responsibilities, duty, embarrassment, encumbrance, establishment, ethics, fault, fealty, freight, guilt, guiltiness, guilty conscience, hamper, handicap, homage, impeachability, impeachableness, impediment, impedimenta, imperative, implication, imposition, imputation, incontrovertible evidence, inconvenience, inculpation, indictability, indictableness, indisputable evidence, involvement, ironclad proof, line of duty, load, loyalty, lumber, mark of Cain, millstone, mission, must, obligation, odium, onus probandi, ought, pack, peccancy, penalty, pillorying, place, point champain, proof, red-handedness, reflection, reprehensibility, reprimand, reproach, reproachableness, reprovability, reprovableness, respect, self-imposed duty, settlement, slur, smear, smirch, smudge, smutch, spot, stain, stigma, stigmatism, stigmatization, sure sign, taint, tarnish, task, tax, trouble, unmistakable sign, weight, white elephant
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