1. Old French
(ŭv, ŏv; əv when unstressed)
1. Derived or coming from; originating at or from: customs of the South.
2. Caused by; resulting from: a death of tuberculosis.
3. Away from; at a distance from: a mile east of here.
4. So as to be separated or relieved from: robbed of one’s dignity; cured of distemper.
5. From the total or group comprising: give of one’s time; two of my friends; most of the cases.
6. Composed or made from: a dress of silk.
7. Associated with or adhering to: people of your religion.
8. Belonging or connected to: the rungs of a ladder.
a. Possessing; having: a person of honor.
b. On one’s part: very nice of you.
10. Containing or carrying: a basket of groceries.
11. Specified as; named or called: a depth of ten feet; the Garden of Eden.
12. Centering on; directed toward: a love of horses.
13. Produced by; issuing from: products of the vine.
14. Characterized or identified by: a year of famine.
a. With reference to; about: think highly of her proposals; will speak of it later.
b. In respect to: slow of speech.
16. Set aside for; taken up by: a day of rest.
17. Before; until: five minutes of two.
18. During or on a specified time: of recent years.
19. By: beloved of the family.
20. Used to indicate an appositive: that idiot of a driver.
21. Archaic On: “A plague of all cowards, I say” (Shakespeare).
Usage Note: The “double genitive” construction, in which a possessive form appears as the object of the preposition of, as in a friend of my father’s or a book of mine, is looked down on by some grammarians and usage critics. But this construction has been used in English since the 1300s and serves a useful purpose. It can help sort out ambiguous phrases like Bob’s photograph, which could mean either “a photograph of Bob” (i.e., revealing Bob’s image) or “a photograph that is in Bob’s possession.” A photograph of Bob’s, on the other hand, can only be a photo that Bob has in his possession and may or may not show Bob’s image. There are also cases in which the double genitive may be more elegant; for example, many speakers find such sentences as That’s your only friend that I’ve ever met or That’s your only friend I’ve ever met to be awkward or impossible, but rephrasing using the double genitive provides an acceptable alternative, as in That’s the only friend of yours that I’ve ever met. • Adverbs of degree, such as too, that, and so, tend to cause a shift in the word order of a sentence under certain circumstances. For instance, it’s common to speak of “a long movie” or “a big deal,” but not of “a too long movie” or “a that big deal.” The customary way of rewording in these cases is to place the adverb and adjective before the indefinite article rather than after it: too long a movie; that big a deal. Often, especially in speech, an of is inserted as well: too long of a movie; that big of a deal. But this construction using of is considered ungrammatical; in our 2012 survey, 74 percent of the Usage Panel found the sentence That’s too long of a movie for me to sit through unacceptable. A somewhat smaller number, but still a majority—58 percent—disapproved of He wanted to apologize, but I told him it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Our Living Language Some speakers of vernacular English varieties, particularly in isolated or mountainous regions of the Southern United States, use phrases such as of a night or of an evening in place of at night or in the evening, as in We’d go hunting of an evening. This of construction is used only when referring to a repeated action, where Standard English uses nights, evenings, and the like, as in We’d go hunting nights. It is not used for single actions, as in She returned at night. · These of and -s constructions are related. The -s construction, which dates back to the Old English period (c. 449-1100), does not signify a plurality but is similar to the so-called genitive suffix -s, which often indicates possession, as in the king’s throne. Just as this example can also be phrased as the throne of the king, nights can be reformulated as of a night. This reformulation has been possible since the Middle English period (c. 1100-1500). Sometimes the original -s ending remains in the of construction, as in We’d walk to the store of evenings, but usually it is omitted. Using of with adverbial time phrases has not always been confined to vernacular speech, as is evidenced by its occurrence in sources ranging from the Wycliffite Bible (1382) to Theodore Dreiser’s 1911 novel Jennie Gerhardt: “There was a place out in one corner of the veranda where he liked to sit of a spring or summer evening.” · Using such of constructions reflects a long-standing tendency for English speakers to eliminate the case endings that were once attached to nouns to indicate their role as subject, object, or possessor. Nowadays, word order and the use of prepositional phrases usually determine a noun’s role. Despite the trend to replace genitive -s with of phrases, marking adverbial phrases of time with of is fading out of American vernacular usage, probably because one can form these phrases without -s, as in at night.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
(ɒv; unstressed əv)
1. used with a verbal noun or gerund to link it with a following noun that is either the subject or the object of the verb embedded in the gerund: the breathing of a fine swimmer (subject); the breathing of clean air (object).
2. used to indicate possession, origin, or association: the house of my sister; to die of hunger.
3. used after words or phrases expressing quantities: a pint of milk.
4. constituted by, containing, or characterized by: a family of idiots; a rod of iron; a man of some depth.
5. used to indicate separation, as in time or space: within a mile of the town; within ten minutes of the beginning of the concert.
6. used to mark apposition: the city of Naples; a speech on the subject of archaeology.
7. about; concerning: speak to me of love.
8. used in passive constructions to indicate the agent: he was beloved of all.
9. informal used to indicate a day or part of a period of time when some activity habitually occurs: I go to the pub of an evening.
10. US before the hour of: a quarter of nine.
[Old English (as prep and adv); related to Old Norse af, Old High German aba, Latin ab, Greek apo]
(Languages) Old French (language)
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
(ʌv, ɒv; unstressed əv or, esp. before consonants, ə)
1. (used to indicate distance or direction from, separation, deprivation, etc.): within a mile of the house; robbed of one’s money.
2. (used to indicate derivation or origin): the songs of Gershwin.
3. (used to indicate cause or reason): dead of hunger.
4. (used to indicate material, substance, or contents): a dress of silk; a book of poems.
5. (used to indicate apposition or identity): a genius of a pilot.
6. (used to indicate possession or association): property of the church.
7. (used to indicate inclusion in a number, class, or whole): one of us.
8. (used to indicate the object of the action noted by the preceding noun, verb, or adjective): the ringing of bells; to write of home; tired of working.
9. (used to indicate qualities or attributes): a woman of courage.
10. (used to indicate a specified time): They arrived of an evening.
11. before the hour of; until: ten minutes of one.
12. on the part of: It was nice of you to come.
13. set aside for or devoted to: a minute of prayer.
14. Archaic. by: consumed of worms.
[before 900; Middle English, Old English: of, off; c. German ab, Latin ab, Greek apó]
auxiliary v. Nonstandard.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Of is used for showing possession. It can also be used to show other types of relationship between people or things.
It was the home of a schoolteacher.
She was the sister of the Duke of Urbino.
At the top of the hill Jackson paused for breath.
You can use of in front of a possessive pronoun such as mine, his, or theirs. You do this to show that someone is one of a group of people or things connected with a particular person. For example, instead of saying ‘He is one of my friends’, you can say ‘He is a friend of mine.’
He’s a very good friend of ours.
I talked to a colleague of yours recently.
You can use of like this in front of other possessives.
He’s a friend of my mother’s.
She was a cousin of Lorna Cook’s.
The ‘s is sometimes omitted, especially in American English.
He’s a close friend of the President.
Don’t use “https://www.thefreedictionary.com/of” in front of a personal pronoun such as ‘me’, ‘him’, or ‘them’. Don’t say, for example, ‘the sister of me‘. Instead you use a possessive determiner such as my, his, or their.
My sister visited us last week.
He had his hands in his pockets.
Consider the future of our society.
You don’t usually use “https://www.thefreedictionary.com/of” in front of short noun phrases. Instead you use ‘s or the apostrophe ‘. For example, instead of saying ‘the car of my friend’, you say ‘my friend’s car’.
I can hear Raoul’s voice.
This is Mr Duffield’s sister.
We watched the President’s speech.
The notice is in all our colleagues’ offices.
You can sometimes use of and a noun phrase to describe something, instead of using an adjective and a grading adverb. For example, instead of saying that something is ‘very interesting’, you can say that it is of great interest. This is a rather formal use.
It will be of great interest to you.
The result is of little importance.
When you use an adjective to comment on an action, you can put of and a pronoun after the adjective. The pronoun refers to the person who has performed the action. For example, you can say ‘That was stupid of you‘.
It was brave of them.
I’m sorry, that was silly of me.
Don’t talk about a book “https://www.thefreedictionary.com/of” a particular author, or a piece of music “https://www.thefreedictionary.com/of” a particular composer. Instead, use by.
Have you read the latest book by Hilda Offen?
We’ll hear some pieces by Mozart.
Similarly, you use by to indicate who painted a picture. A picture of a particular person shows that person in the picture.
We saw the famous painting by Rubens, The Straw Hat.
The museum owns a 16th century painting of Henry VIII.
You can talk about the capital of a country, state, or province.
We went to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia.
However, don’t talk about a town or village “https://www.thefreedictionary.com/of” a particular country or area. Instead, use in.
He lives in a small town in Southern Ecuador.
My favourite town in Shropshire is Ludlow.
You also use in, rather than “https://www.thefreedictionary.com/of”, after superlatives. For example, you talk about ‘the tallest building in Europe’. Don’t say ‘the tallest building of Europe‘.
These are the biggest lizards in the world.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012