On vs While - What's the difference?

on | while |

As nouns the difference between on and while

is that on is lamb while while is an uncertain duration of time, a period of time.

As a conjunction while is

during the same time that.

As a verb while is

to pass (time) idly.



Etymology 1

From (etyl) (m), from (etyl) (m), , see (m).


  • In the state of being active, functioning or operating.
  • Performing according to schedule.
  • Are we still on for tonight?
    Is the show still on ?
  • (UK, informal) Acceptable, appropriate.
  • right on'''''; ''bang '''on'''''; ''not '''on
  • (informal) Destined, normally in the context of a challenge being accepted; involved, doomed.
  • "Five bucks says the Cavs win tonight." ?"You're on !"
    Mike just threw coffee onto Paul's lap. It's on now.
  • (baseball, informal) Having reached a base as a runner and being positioned there, awaiting further action from a subsequent batter.
  • Synonyms
    * base (not informal)


  • To an operating state.
  • turn the television on
  • Along, forwards (continuing an action).
  • drive on''', rock '''on
  • * {{quote-news
  • , year=2012 , date=May 5 , author=Phil McNulty , title=Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool , work=BBC Sport , url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17878435 , page= , passage=He met Luis Suarez's cross at the far post, only for Chelsea keeper Petr Cech to show brilliant reflexes to deflect his header on to the bar. Carroll turned away to lead Liverpool's insistent protests that the ball had crossed the line but referee Phil Dowd and assistant referee Andrew Garratt waved play on , with even a succession of replays proving inconclusive.}}
  • In continuation, at length.
  • and so on .
    He rambled on''' and '''on .
  • (cricket) In, or towards the half of the field on the same side as the batsman's legs; the left side for a right-handed batsman; leg.
  • (not US) Later.
  • Ten years on nothing had changed in the village.
    * off * (to an operating state) off * (later) after, afterward/afterwards, later, subsequently, thence


    (English prepositions)
  • Positioned at the upper surface of, touching from above.
  • * Longfellow
  • I stood on the bridge at midnight.
  • At or near; adjacent to.
  • Soon we'll pass a statue on the left.
    The fleet is on the American coast.
  • Covering.
  • At the date of.
  • Some time during the day of.
  • Dealing with the subject of, about, or concerning something.
  • Touching; hanging from.
  • (informal) In the possession of.
  • Because of, or due to.
  • Immediately after.
  • Paid for by.
  • *
  • , title=(The Celebrity), chapter=4 , passage=Mr. Cooke at once began a tirade against the residents of Asquith for permitting a sandy and generally disgraceful condition of the roads. So roundly did he vituperate the inn management in particular, and with such a loud flow of words, that I trembled lest he should be heard on the veranda.}}
  • Away or occupied with (e.g. a scheduled activity).
  • Denoting performance or action by contact with the surface, upper part, or outside of anything; hence, by means of; with.
  • to play on a violin or piano
    Her words made a lasting impression on my mind.
  • (senseid) Regularly taking (a drug).
  • (senseid) Under the influence of (a drug).
  • (mathematics) Having identical domain and codomain.
  • a function on V
  • (mathematics) Having V^n as domain and V'' as codomain, for some set ''V'' and integer ''n .
  • an operator on V
  • (mathematics) Generated by.
  • Supported by (the specified part of itself).
  • At a given time after the start of something; .
  • * {{quote-news, year=2011, date=September 24, author=Aled Williams, work=BBC Sport
  • , title=[http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/eng_prem/14957961.stm Chelsea 4-1 Swansea] , passage=The Spain striker had given Chelsea the lead on 29 minutes but was shown a straight red card 10 minutes later for a rash challenge on Mark Gower.}}
  • In addition to; besides; indicating multiplication or succession in a series.
  • heaps on heaps of food
    mischief on''' mischief; loss '''on loss
  • (obsolete) of
  • * Shakespeare
  • Be not jealous on me.
  • * Shakespeare
  • Or have we eaten on the insane root / That takes the reason prisoner?
  • Indicating dependence or reliance; with confidence in.
  • I depended on them for assistance.
    He will promise on certain conditions.
    Do you ever bet on horses?
  • Toward; for; indicating the object of an emotion.
  • Have pity or compassion on him.
  • (obsolete) At the peril of, or for the safety of.
  • * Dryden
  • Hence, on thy life.
  • In the service of; connected with; of the number of.
  • He is on''' a newspaper; I am '''on the committee.
  • By virtue of; with the pledge of.
  • He affirmed or promised on''' his word, or '''on his honour.
  • To the account of; denoting imprecation or invocation, or coming to, falling, or resting upon.
  • On us be all the blame.
    A curse on him!
  • * Bible, Matthew xxvii. 25
  • His blood be on' us and ' on our children.
    Derived terms
    * depend on * on-campus * put on airs *


    (en verb)
  • (Singapore) To switch on.
  • Can you on the light?

    Etymology 2

    From (etyl) .

    Alternative forms

    * (l)


    (English prepositions)
  • Without.
  • Usage notes
    * Usually followed by a perfect participle, as being'', ''having , etc.






    (en noun)
  • An uncertain duration of time, a period of time.
  • He lectured for quite a long while .


    (wikipedia while) (English Conjunctions)
  • During the same time that.
  • * , chapter=12
  • , title= Mr. Pratt's Patients , passage=While the powwow was going on the big woman came back again. She was consider'ble rumpled and scratched up, but there was fire in her eye.}}
  • * 1948 , , North from Mexico / The Spanish-Speaking People of The United States , J. B. Lippincott Company, page 25,
  • While De Anza was exploring the Bay of San Francisco, seeking a site for the presidio, the American colonists on the eastern seaboard, three thousand miles away, were celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
  • * {{quote-magazine, date=2013-06-07, author=David Simpson
  • , volume=188, issue=26, page=36, magazine=(The Guardian Weekly) , title= Fantasy of navigation , passage=Like most human activities, ballooning has sponsored heroes and hucksters and a good deal in between. For every dedicated scientist patiently recording atmospheric pressure and wind speed while shivering at high altitudes, there is a carnival barker with a bevy of pretty girls willing to dangle from a basket or parachute down to earth.}}
  • Although.
  • * 2013 September 28, (Kenan Malik), " London Is Special, but Not That Special," New York Times (retrieved 28 September 2013):
  • While Britain’s recession has been deep and unforgiving, in London it has been relatively shallow.
  • (Northern England, Scotland) Until.
  • * Beaumont and Fletcher
  • I may be conveyed into your chamber; I'll lie under your bed while midnight.
  • As long as.
  • * I. Watts
  • Use your memory; you will sensibly experience a gradual improvement, while you take care not to overload it.


  • To pass (time) idly.
  • * Longfellow
  • The lovely lady whiled the hours away.
  • To loiter.
  • (Spectator)

    Derived terms

    * while away * meanwhile * the while