Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An act or a course of action that is required of one by position, social custom, law, or religion: Do your duty to your country.
  • n. Moral obligation: acting out of duty.
  • n. The compulsion felt to meet such obligation.
  • n. A service, function, or task assigned to one, especially in the armed forces: hazardous duty.
  • n. Function or work; service: jury duty. See Synonyms at function.
  • n. A tax charged by a government, especially on imports.
  • n. The work performed by a machine under specified conditions.
  • n. A measure of efficiency expressed as the amount of work done per unit of energy used.
  • n. The total volume of water required to irrigate a given area in order to cultivate a specific crop until harvest.
  • idiom duty bound Obliged: You are duty bound to help your little sister and brother.
  • idiom off duty Not engaged in or responsible for assigned work.
  • idiom on duty Engaged in or responsible for assigned work.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. That which one is morally or legally obligated to do.
  • n. A period of time spent at work or doing a particular task.
  • n. describing a workload as to its idle, working and de-energized periods.
  • n. A tax placed on imports or exports; a tariff.
  • n. One's due, something one is owed; a debt or fee.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. That which is due; payment.
  • n. That which a person is bound by moral obligation to do, or refrain from doing; that which one ought to do; service morally obligatory.
  • n. Hence, any assigned service or business
  • n. Specifically, obedience or submission due to parents and superiors.
  • n. Respect; reverence; regard; act of respect; homage.
  • n. The efficiency of an engine, especially a steam pumping engine, as measured by work done by a certain quantity of fuel; usually, the number of pounds of water lifted one foot by one bushel of coal (94 lbs. old standard), or by 1 cwt. (112 lbs., England, or 100 lbs., United States).
  • n. Tax, toll, impost, or customs; excise; any sum of money required by government to be paid on the importation, exportation, or consumption of goods.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Obligatory service; that which ought to be done; that which one is bound by natural, moral, or legal obligation to do or perform.
  • n. The obligation to do something; the binding or obligatory force of that which is morally right: as, when duty calls, one must obey.
  • n. Due obedience; submission; compliant or obedient service.
  • n. A feeling of obligation, or an act manifesting such feeling; an expression of submissive deference or respectful consideration.
  • n. Any requisite procedure, service, business, or office; that which one ought to do; particularly, any stated service or function: as, the duties of one's station in life; to go or be on duty; the regiment did duty in Flanders.
  • n. In mech., the number of foot-pounds of work done per bushel or per hundredweight of fuel consumed: as, the duty of a steam-engine.
  • n. That which is due; an obligation; compensation; dues.
  • n. A tax or impost; excise or customs dues; the sum of money levied by a government upon certain articles, specifically on articles imported or exported: as, the stamp duty of Great Britain; the legacy duty; the duties on sugar; ad valorem and specific duties.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a government tax on imports or exports
  • n. the social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force
  • n. work that you are obliged to perform for moral or legal reasons

Etymologies

Middle English duete, from Anglo-Norman, from due, variant of Old French deu, due; see due.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English duete, from Old French deu ("due"), past participle of devoir ("to owe"), from Latin debere ("to owe"), from de ("from") + habere ("to have"). (Wiktionary)

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