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[doo-tee, dyoo-] /ˈdu ti, ˈdyu-/
noun, plural duties.
something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation.
the binding or obligatory force of something that is morally or legally right; moral or legal obligation.
an action or task required by a person's position or occupation; function:
the duties of a clergyman.
the respectful and obedient conduct due a parent, superior, elder, etc.
an act or expression of respect.
a task or chore that a person is expected to perform:
It's your duty to do the dishes.
  1. an assigned task, occupation, or place of service:
    He was on radar duty for two years.
  2. the military service required of a citizen by a country:
    After graduation, he began his duty.
Commerce. a specific or ad valorem tax imposed by law on the import or export of goods.
a payment, service, etc., imposed and enforceable by law or custom.
Chiefly British. tax:
income duty.
  1. the amount of work done by an engine per unit amount of fuel consumed.
  2. the measure of effectiveness of any machine.
Agriculture. the amount of water necessary to provide for the crop in a given area.
Baby Talk. bowel movement.
do duty, to serve the same function; substitute for:
bookcases that do duty as room dividers.
off duty, not at one's post or work; at liberty:
They spent their days off duty in hiking and fishing.
on duty, at one's post or work; occupied; engaged:
He was suspended from the force for being drunk while on duty.
1250-1300; Middle English du(e)te < Anglo-French duete. See due, -ty2
1. Duty, obligation refer to what one feels bound to do. Duty is what one performs, or avoids doing, in fulfillment of the permanent dictates of conscience, piety, right, or law: duty to one's country; one's duty to tell the truth, to raise children properly. An obligation is what one is bound to do to fulfill the dictates of usage, custom, or propriety, and to carry out a particular, specific, and often personal promise or agreement: financial obligations. 3. responsibility, business. 4. deference. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for duty
  • Again, this is nothing more than a bunch of elitist thugs who feel they have the moral duty to dictate you how you live.
  • Part of that moral duty is to make good on the hopes and expectations vested in us-to deliver results, not mere promises.
  • The poor had no moral duty to work, he argued: it was for officials to design a system that demonstrably rewarded work.
  • At last: jury duty so brief, easy and entertaining that you'll actually pay to serve.
  • They don't go to expensive tutors out of a sense of duty.
  • Rich families bring food and water to those on duty.
  • Participants were jury-eligible adults who were at the court for real jury duty.
  • The museum tour is self guided, and docents are on duty to accompany visitors, by request.
  • These are the bottles that fulfill a wine's only duty on a warm afternoon: to be crisp and white.
  • They're so light on civic duty that few vote and fewer still can imagine why one would die for one's country.
British Dictionary definitions for duty


noun (pl) -ties
a task or action that a person is bound to perform for moral or legal reasons
respect or obedience due to a superior, older persons, etc: filial duty
the force that binds one morally or legally to one's obligations
a government tax, esp on imports
  1. the quantity or intensity of work for which a machine is designed
  2. a measure of the efficiency of a machine
the quantity of water necessary to irrigate an area of land to grow a particular crop
  1. a job or service allocated
  2. (as modifier): duty rota
do duty for, to act as a substitute for
off duty, not at work
on duty, at work
Word Origin
C13: from Anglo-French dueté, from Old French deudue
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for duty

late 13c., from Anglo-French duete, from Old French deu "due, owed; proper, just," from Vulgar Latin *debutus, from Latin debitus, past participle of debere "to owe" (see debt). Related: Duties. The sense of "tax or fee on imports, exports, etc." is from late 15c.; duty-free as a noun is attested from 1958.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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duty in Culture

duty definition

A tax charged by a government, especially on an import.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for duty


Related Terms

pad duty, rack duty, sack duty

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with duty


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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