from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adverb From a place or position.
  • adverb At a certain distance in space or time.
  • adverb From a given course or route; aside.
  • adverb Into a state of unconsciousness.
  • adverb So as to be no longer on, attached, or connected.
  • adverb So as to be divided.
  • adverb So as to be no longer continuing, operating, or functioning.
  • adverb So as to be completely removed, finished, or eliminated.
  • adverb So as to be in a state of sudden violent or loud activity.
  • adverb So as to be smaller, fewer, or less.
  • adverb So as to be away from or not engaged in work or duty.
  • adverb Offstage.
  • adjective Distant or removed; farther.
  • adjective Remote; slim.
  • adjective Not on, attached, or connected.
  • adjective Not operating or operational.
  • adjective No longer taking place; canceled.
  • adjective Slack.
  • adjective Not up to standard; below a normal or satisfactory level.
  • adjective Not accurate; incorrect.
  • adjective Somewhat crazy; eccentric.
  • adjective Started on the way; going.
  • adjective Absent, away from, or not engaged in work or duty.
  • adjective Spent away from work or duty.
  • adjective Being on the right side of an animal or vehicle.
  • adjective Being the animal or vehicle on the right.
  • adjective Nautical Farthest from the shore; seaward.
  • adjective Sports Toward or designating the side of the field facing the batsman in cricket.
  • adjective Off-color.
  • preposition So as to be removed or distant from.
  • preposition Away or relieved from.
  • preposition By consuming.
  • preposition With the means provided by.
  • preposition Informal From.
  • preposition Extending or branching out from.
  • preposition Not up to the usual standard of.
  • preposition So as to abstain from.
  • preposition Nautical To seaward of.
  • intransitive verb To go away; leave.
  • intransitive verb To murder.
  • idiom (off and on) In an intermittent manner.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • More distant; further; hence, as applied to horses, oxen, etc., driven in pairs abreast (the driver's position being on the left of them), right; right-hand: opposed to near or left-hand: as, the off side in driving; the off horse.
  • In cricket, on that side of the field which is to the left of the bowler: opposed to on. See diagram under cricket.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Variant of Middle English of, from Old English; see apo- in Indo-European roots.]


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  • Cricket jargon - the side of the field closest away from batsman's body.

    November 29, 2007

  • A contranym: it means both off *and* on (e.g., "the alarm went off").

    May 14, 2008

  • Ohhhhh. Now I'm stumped as to how to explain/justify “go off” in that sense. But I have had a wonderful time considering all possible meanings of off.

    May 14, 2008

  • Ah, here. This one (among many, many others):

    go off To start into sudden action; to break into a fit of laughter, extravagance of language, irrelevant or unintelligible discourse, etc. (emphasis mine)

    May 14, 2008

  • "'Those old wooden stairs,' said Vaclav. 'The tar roof, the gas coppers in the laundry. I am curious an old place like that has not caught fire on its own. It is a death trap. There were some women sunbaking on the roof. But they did not see us.'

    'Don't worry about them,' said Les. 'They live there.'

    'I tell you one thing,' said Grigor. 'When it does go, nothing will stop it. She will be off like the rotten fishcake,' he added with a laugh."

    - 'Robert Barrett, 'Between the Devlin and the Deep Blue Seas'.

    August 30, 2008