What does the idiom "on no account" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does on no account mean? In what situations is on no account used?

Meaning of "on no account"


The idiom “on no account” has a few meanings, but is generally intended to express some degree of prohibition in the face of otherwise desired action. To use the phrase “on no account” is to say that something should not, or must not, be done, regardless of other considerations. It can be used to express either a caution against potential danger or harm, or a simple, absolute prohibition. Thus, “on no account” is a way of making it clear that the prohibition of a given action is not up for debate, regardless of possible consequences.


The phrase “on no account” is an old English phrase that has been in use since at least the 16th century. The earliest known record of it being used dates back to 1594, when it appeared in the works of William Camden (1551-1623), an English antiquarian, historian, and poet. Camden used the phrase in the context of a warning against covetousness, which meant that it was in use before then as well. The phrase was likely derived from the Middle English phrase “yizot on no coownt”, which had a similar meaning.


The phrase “on no account” is used as an emphatic way of making it clear that a prohibition is absolute. It can be used to express a caution against potential consequences, or simply as a way of making it clear that the prohibition of a given action is not up for debate. It is usually used to express the idea that there is no point in even considering the possibility of doing something, since it must not be done regardless of other considerations. As such, it is often used as a warning against reckless behaviour or thoughtless actions.

Example Sentences

  • “On no account should you accept money or gifts from strangers.”
  • “John was warned that, on no account, should he be late for work again.”
  • “You are to leave the country on no account. That is a direct order.”
  • “On no account should you be careless with the company's finances.”

The meanings of the words in the "on no account" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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