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Forward vs. Onward: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 21, 2023
Forward refers to a direction towards the front or a future point in time, while onward implies continuous progress or movement in any direction, often from a specific point.

Key Differences

Forward typically indicates a direction towards the front or ahead, often implying progress or advancement. Onward, on the other hand, suggests continued movement from a specific point in time or location, not necessarily restricted to the front direction.
Forward is commonly used in both physical and metaphorical contexts, like moving forward in space or making forward plans for the future. While, onward is often associated with a journey or a process, emphasizing the continuation or progression of an action or movement.
While forward can imply a future-oriented approach or planning, it also denotes physical direction. Onward, in contrast, focuses more on the aspect of ongoing progress or advancement, whether in time, position, or stages of a journey.
Forward can have a proactive or ambitious connotation, suggesting deliberate movement or planning ahead. Whereas, onward carries a connotation of persistence and continuation, often used to motivate or indicate unceasing progress.
In speech and writing, forward is versatile, used for giving directions, describing attitudes, or planning. However, onward tends to be more inspirational or motivational, used in contexts of journeys, campaigns, or long-term endeavors.

Comparison Chart

Directional Focus

Towards the front or ahead
Continuation from a specific point

Contextual Use

Physical and metaphorical contexts
Journeys, processes, ongoing actions

Temporal Implications

Future-oriented, directional
Emphasis on progression or continuation

Connotative Differences

Proactive, ambitious
Persistence, motivation

Application in Speech

Directions, attitudes, planning
Inspirational, journeys, long-term goals

Forward and Onward Definitions


Towards the front or in the direction one is facing.
He moved forward to get a better view.


Toward a more advanced state or stage.
The technology has developed rapidly onward from its inception.


To a later or future time or stage.
We need to think forward to the next phase of the project.


Moving or continuing forward from a certain point.
From here, we journey onward to our next destination.


Being open and outspoken in one's attitude or intentions.
He was quite forward in expressing his opinions.


Indicating continuation of a process or activity.
The project moves onward despite the challenges.


Sending something on to a further destination or person.
Please forward the email to the relevant team.


In a forward direction; ahead in time or place.
They marched onward through the forest.


Advancing in a particular direction or toward a specific goal.
She is moving forward in her career.


Signifying moving forward after a pause or interruption.
After the break, the conference continued onward.


At, near, or belonging to the front or forepart; fore
The forward section of the aircraft.


Moving or tending forward.


Located ahead or in advance
Kept her eye on the forward horizon.


In a direction or toward a position that is ahead in space or time; forward.


Going, tending, or moving toward a position in front
A forward plunge down a flight of stairs.


Can forward be used in planning?

Yes, it's often used for future-oriented planning.

What does forward imply in terms of direction?

It implies moving or looking towards the front.

How is forward used in communication?

It's used to denote sending something to someone else.

Does forward have a proactive connotation?

Yes, it suggests an active, ambitious approach.

Can forward mean assertive or bold?

Yes, in terms of personality traits or behavior.

How is onward used in speeches or writing?

To emphasize progress, journey, or long-term goals.

Is forward used in sports terminology?

Yes, often to indicate movement towards the goal.

Is forward only a physical direction?

No, it's also metaphorical, as in progress or development.

Does onward imply a specific direction?

Not necessarily; it's more about continuation.

Can forward be used in technological contexts?

Yes, to indicate advancement or development.

Is onward related to time progression?

Yes, it often indicates ongoing time or action.

Can forward have a future connotation in business?

Yes, as in planning or anticipating future events.

Is onward used in military contexts?

Often, to denote movement or progress in operations.

What does onward signify in a journey?

Continuation from a certain point or stage.

Can onward be inspirational?

Yes, it's commonly used to motivate or inspire continued effort.

Does onward relate to historical progression?

Yes, it can describe historical or developmental continuity.

Does onward have a specific grammatical role?

It's mainly used as an adverb or adjective.

Can forward imply eagerness or enthusiasm?

Yes, especially in expressing ideas or taking action.

Is onward associated with personal growth?

Yes, it can denote personal or professional advancement.

What does moving forward imply in a meeting?

Progressing to the next topic or phase.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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