Deeper Dive: of

Word Story Text
OF is a preposition, one of the short function words that occur with very high frequency in speech and in texts. The good news is that the word occurs so often, there will be many opportunities to learn and practice it. The bad news is that it is hard to make learning OF very engaging.

For a two letter word, OF is pretty weird. It rhymes with words like LOVE and GLOVE, which are spelled very differently.

In my dialect of English, OF does not rhyme with ON or ODD, and it certainly doesn’t rhyme with OR, the other O-consonant word.

It might help learners to teach OF in short, common phrases containing words that are decodable or highly predictable.

out of time. cup of tea. best of all. United States of America.
of (ŏv), preposition [AS. of of, from, off; akin to D. & OS. af, G. ab off, OHG. aba from, away, Icel., Dan., Sw., & Goth. af, L. ab, Gr., Skr. apa. Cf. Off, A- (2), Ab-, After, Epi-.] In a general sense, from, or out from; proceeding from; belonging to; relating to; concerning; – used in a variety of applications; as:

1. Denoting that from which anything proceeds; indicating origin, source, descent, and the like; as, he is of a race of kings; he is of noble blood.
That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Luke i. 35.

I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. 1 Cor. xi. 23.
2. Denoting possession or ownership, or the relation of subject to attribute; as, the apartment of the consul: the power of the king; a man of courage; the gate of heaven.
“Poor of spirit.” Macaulay.
3. Denoting the material of which anything is composed, or that which it contains; as,
a throne of gold; a sword of steel; a wreath of mist; a cup of water.
4. Denoting part of an aggregate or whole; belonging to a number or quantity mentioned; out of; from amongst; as, of this little he had some to spare; some of the mines were unproductive; most of the company.
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed. Lam. iii. 22.

It is a duty to communicate of those blessings we have received. Franklin.
5. Denoting that by which a person or thing is actuated or impelled; also, the source of a purpose or action; due to; as, they went of their own will; no body can move of itself; he did it of necessity.
For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts. Josh. xi. 20.
6. Denoting reference to a thing; about; concerning; relating to; as, to boast of one's achievements; they talked of many things.
Knew you of this fair work? Shak.
7. Denoting nearness or distance, either in space or time; from; as,
within a league of the town; within an hour of the appointed time.
8. Denoting identity or equivalence; – used with a name or appellation, and equivalent to the relation of apposition; as,
the continent of America; the city of Rome; the Island of Cuba.
9. Denoting the agent, or person by whom, or thing by which, anything is, or is done; by.
And told to her of [by] some. Chaucer. He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. Luke iv. 15.

[Jesus] being forty days tempted of the devil. Luke iv. 1, 2.
☞ The use of the word in this sense, as applied to persons, is nearly obsolete.
10. Denoting relation to place or time; belonging to, or connected with; as,
men of Athens; the people of the Middle Ages; in the days of Herod.
11. Denoting passage from one state to another; from. [Obs.]
“O miserable of happy.” Milton.
12. During; in the course of.
Not be seen to wink of all the day. Shak.

My custom always of the afternoon. Shak.
Of may be used in a subjective or an objective sense. “The love of God” may mean, our love for God, or God's love for us.

☞ From is the primary sense of this preposition; a sense retained in off, the same word differently written for distinction. But this radical sense disappears in most of its application; as, a man of genius; a man of rare endowments; a fossil of a red color, or of an hexagonal figure; he lost all hope of relief; an affair of the cabinet; he is a man of decayed fortune; what is the price of corn? In these and similar phrases, of denotes property or possession, or a relation of some sort involving connection. These applications, however all proceeded from the same primary sense. That which proceeds from, or is produced by, a person or thing, either has had, or still has, a close connection with the same; and hence the word was applied to cases of mere connection, not involving at all the idea of separation.
Of consequence
of importance, value, or influence.
Of late
recently; in time not long past.
Of old
formerly; in time long past.
Of one's self
by one's self; without help or prompting; spontaneously.

Why, knows not Montague, that of itself

England is safe, if true within itself? Shak.

-- Webster's unabridged 1913

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