Hold On vs Hold Off: Difference and Comparison

In English, a single word can have multiple meanings depending on the context. Likewise, one such example is ‘Hold One’ and ‘Hold Off’.

Whereby ‘Hold on’ is termed as a cease, continuation, or gripping something for a while. Additionally, ‘Hold Off’ is about postponing, rescinding, or controlling something for a short period. 

Key Takeaways

  1. “Hold on” implies waiting for a short time, while “Hold off” suggests postponing an action or decision.
  2. “Hold on” is used during phone calls or conversations, while “Hold off” is used for activities or events.
  3. “Hold off” implies a sense of uncertainty, whereas “Hold on” does not carry this connotation.

Hold On vs Hold Off

The difference between Hold On and Hold Off is that Hold On refers to the action of keeping something going on with an excuse to pause/ wait for a few minutes, whereas, on the other hand, Hold Off refers to postponing, cancelling, or stopping that specific action for a while. 

Hold On vs Hold Off
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According to the dictionary, the phrase hold on has three meanings, one is to have a grasp on something in order to have support, while,

the second one refers to waiting or stopping a specific activity for a certain duration, and lastly, indicating something that you are doing to keep ongoing. 

On the other hand, the phrase ‘hold off’ also has three meanings as per the English language, such that, one meaning refers to an act that failed to occur, especially, signifying bad weather.

In addition to that, the second meaning is a verb; resisting an attacker or challenge. And the last one citing to postpone or stop a specific action for the time being. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonHold On Hold Off
Meaning Hold On is referred to as continuing/ pausing something you are doing for a while and gripping something so firmly. Hold Off has many meanings such as postponing, canceling, or controlling that specific action for a short while. 
InventedHold On means- ‘to maintain one’s course in the 13th century.1830- Grip of something 1846- ought to stop something. Hold Off was invented back in the 15th Century as a transition verb and ultimately became an intransitive verb.
Past TenseIt is held on to in the past tense.Hold off is held off in the past tense. 
Present TenseI/ You/We/They- Hold onShe/He- Holds onI/You/We/They- Hold OffShe/He- Holds off
Example‘Hold on until I visit you’(continuing) ‘Hold on the project’(Pausing) &‘Hold on your umbrella properly!’(Gripping)
‘Hold off the part right now!’(postponing or Cancelling/stopping)‘Held off the felons’(controlling)

What is Hold On?

As aforementioned, the verb Hold on has several meanings in the English language.

That there are three underlying meanings; the first meaning is relating to making yourself continue doing something that you have been doing for a while.

Even though the activity can be difficult or unpleasant, you should carry it out till the end. For example, “Hold on until I get help’. 

Furthermore, the second meaning is used to tell someone to put something on pause for a short time. 

For instance, ‘Hold on the line, till I come back.

And lastly, the hold on affirms an act of gripping something so firmly or tightly with either their arms or legs, viz. “Hold on your hat, the winds are quite strong today”.

Additionally, it also refers to someone telling you to stop doing that thing, seeing to it that the thing you were doing might be wrong. E.g, “Hold on, this has to be done like this”. 

Howsoever, the etymology of the phrase Hold On is early 13th century, tending to the meaning ‘to maintain one’s course’, in the subsequent years, by 1830,

it meant keeping one’s grip on something, and by 1846, referring to as an order to wait or stop an activity. 

What is Hold Off?

Whereas, the verb hold off also in the same way, has numerous meanings. Each defines different denotations. Initially, the verb ‘hold off’ has its etymology from the modern used phrase ‘Hold Back’,

pointing to locking up or keeping something under control. Over time, in the early 15th century, the phrase ‘Hold Off’ has been used as a transitive verb.

And by 1600, it was stated as an intransitive verb as well. 

Speaking of ‘Hold Off’ meanings, primarily, it has three meanings; where the first one is a transitive verb, meaning the act of delaying something for a reason, such as, ‘The event has been held off due to rain’.

And secondly, it cites postponing an action, that is basically, postponing, cancelling, or stopping an event from happening for a short time. E.g., “Hold Off the concert, since the rates of tickets are comparably lower than earlier”. 

And lastly, the hold-off verb specifies keeping at a distance, resisting an attacker, or repelling or keeping back someone from causing trouble.

For instance, “The criminals were held off at the entrance gate”. Over and above, the past tense of the verb ‘Hold Off’ is held off.

While the third person singular present tense is ‘holds off’, and the present participle is ‘Holding Off’. 

Main Differences Between Hold On and Hold Off

  1. Hold On is referred to as continuing to do something you have already started, putting something on hold temporarily, and lastly stopping or delaying something. On the other hand, Hold Off is meant to be cancelling, postponing, stopping, and controlling something for a short span of time.
  2. Hold On was introduced in the early 13th century with the meaning of ‘to maintain one’s course’, later in 1830 as ‘Grip of something ‘and in 1846 as ‘ought to stop something’. Meanwhile, Hold Off was introduced in the 15th century as a transitive verb that turned out to be an intransitive verb in the 16th century. 
  3. The past tense of Hold On is termed as ‘Held On’, while for Hold Off, the past tense is ‘Held Off’.
  4. The present tense of Hold on is defined as singular and plural as I/You/they/We use ‘Hold On’ and for She/He Hold on is used as ‘Holds On’. Whereas, the present tense of Hold off is termed for I/They/You/We is ‘Hold off’ plus for She/He is ‘Holds Off’
  5. In the case of continuing something, then use ‘Hold on until I get back to you’, for pausing or ceasing any act then ‘Hold on to the act right now!’ and for gripping anything ‘Hold on to your umbrella properly!’. On the contrary, Hold Off examples are- Hold off the permission for now (Stopping something) and for controlling, ‘Hold off the criminals in the cell’. 
Difference Between Hold On and Hold Off
References
  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10888438.2012.689788
  2. https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA307270786&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=0195377X&p=AONE&sw=w

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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