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

  • transitive v. To constrain by physical, legal, social, or moral means.
  • transitive v. To make indebted or grateful: I am obliged to you for your gracious hospitality.
  • transitive v. To do a service or favor for: They obliged us by arriving early.
  • intransitive v. To do a service or favor: The soloist obliged with yet another encore.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To constrain someone by force or by social, moral or legal means.
  • v. To do someone a service or favour (hence, originally, creating an obligation).
  • v. To be indebted to someone.
  • v. To do a service or favour.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To attach, as by a bond.
  • transitive v. To constrain by physical, moral, or legal force; to put under obligation to do or forbear something.
  • transitive v. To bind by some favor rendered; to place under a debt; hence, to do a favor to; to please; to gratify; to accommodate.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To bind; attach; devote.
  • To bind, constrain, or compel by any physical, moral, or legal force or influence; place under the obligation or necessity (especially moral necessity) of doing some particular thing or of pursuing some particular course.
  • To lay under obligation of gratitude, etc., by some act of courtesy or kindness; hence, to gratify; serve; do a service to or confer a favor upon; be of service to; do a kindness or good turn to: as, kindly oblige me by shutting the door; in the passive, to be indebted.
  • Synonyms To force, coerce. To serve, accommodate.

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

  • v. provide a service or favor for someone
  • v. bind by an obligation; cause to be indebted
  • v. force somebody to do something


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

Middle English obligen, from Old French obligier, from Latin obligāre : ob-, to; see ob- + ligāre, to bind; see leig- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old French obliger < Latin obligo, from ob- + ligo.


  • Perhaps, then, there are times when noblesse oblige is a better principle than mere populism and compromise.

    Feckless Youth

  • The expression "noblesse oblige" is difficult to define but its implications are precise and clear.

    Philip S. Hench - Banquet Speech

  • He sort of asks these spirits in the house for help and they oblige, which is pretty sweet laughs.

    American Horror Story: What Else Goes Down on Halloween Night?

  • -- That he would not suffer a soldier to handle an axe, but by fire and sword oblige the inhabitants to do it. ...

    Life of George Washington — Volume 01

  • I was more than happy to oblige, which is how my name got on the vow renewal certificate for Justin and Amber Myers of Top Stories

  • The French have another word, noblesse oblige, which is translated as those who enjoy the advantage of wealth and power have an obligation to protect those who do not have these advantages.

    My Sinchew -

  • This is the reverse of "oblige" vs "obligate", where British English only uses the former, while American English uses the latter back-formation for "compel" and the former for "do a favour for".

    On being orient(at)ed

  • I would just point out that one of Mr Harbour's own proposed amendments to the telecom package would require national regulatory authorities to "oblige" telcos/ISPs Internet service providers "to distribute public interest information to existing and new subscribers when appropriate" warning about the infringement of copyright.


  • Never use "oblige" in the place of the complimentary close.

    How to Write Letters (Formerly The Book of Letters) A Complete Guide to Correct Business and Personal Correspondence

  • The woman had written a very nice letter explaining these facts, and sent it by hand, stating at the same time that the bearer of the note was a very respectable woman, a friend of her own, who would be very pleased to "oblige" Mrs. Dunstan by taking on the morning's work.

    Lady Molly of Scotland Yard


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