'Unto' or 'Onto': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on October 5, 2022

Is it 'unto' or 'onto'? Can they be used interchangeably? What do they mean? All will be revealed in this article.

The quick answer is that 'unto' either means:

  • 'done or given to someone' or
  • 'up until'

Onto, on the other hand, shows movement.

Read on to find out more about proper usage and see example sentences.

What Is The Difference Between "Unto" And "Onto"?

Let's look a little further into the difference between these two words and how to use them. But first, you'll need to know about prepositions.

What Is a Preposition?

Prepositions are used to indicate relationships between other words in a sentence. They tell the reader or listener where or how something happened, and can vary in meaning depending on the context.

For example, in the following sentence, the preposition 'under' shows the relationship between the dog and the table.

The dog is under the table.

In a similar way, in the following sentence, the preposition 'from' shows that the speaker was just at the office before they arrived. It indicates they are no longer at the office. Change the prepositions to 'to' and the whole sentence changes meaning. It might then come to mean that the person is currently at the office.

I've just come straight from the office.

But why should you care about prepositions and what do they have to do with the current topic?

You guessed it - 'unto' and 'onto' are both prepositions.

What Does 'Unto' Mean

'Unto' is a preposition that can mean several different things. Firstly, it can be used to express when something is done to or given to someone. Here are some example sentences, starting with a famous one:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This well-known quote from the bible says that we should do to others only what we would like to have done to ourselves. In other words, we should treat others well. Here's another:

I bestowed good will unto him.

You can replace 'unto' with 'to' in this sentence.

Now let's look at some examples of the word's other meaning - until.

I will love you unto the end of time.
I'd never seen anything like it unto this day.

It is quite an old-fashioned word, no longer commonly used. You might want to just use 'to.'

There are other words like that in the English language, whereby an old word still exists but isn't commonly used. 'Equipments' vs. 'equipment' is one of them.

What Does 'Onto' Mean

In its most general sense, the word 'onto' shows a movement towards a position. This could be a physical movement on top of something or a change of topic or idea. Here are some examples:

  • The cat jumped onto the bed.
  • Adam's got me onto his methods for acquiring new customers; they really work!
  • How did we get onto this topic? I can't remember how we got here!

Concluding Thoughts About 'Unto' Vs. 'Onto'

Hopefully, you can see the difference between the two words now.

'Unto' is quite a dated word and isn't used very much these days except to quote the bible. It is more common to use 'to' or 'until' (depending on the context), which may be less confusing.

'Onto,' on the other hand, is still very common and can be used in many contexts.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.