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[ob-li-gey-shuh n] /ˌɒb lɪˈgeɪ ʃən/
something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law, etc.
something that is done or is to be done for such reasons:
to fulfill one's obligations.
a binding promise, contract, sense of duty, etc.
the act of binding or obliging oneself by a promise, contract, etc.
  1. an agreement enforceable by law, originally applied to promises under seal.
  2. a document containing such an agreement.
  3. a bond containing a penalty, with a condition annexed for payment of money, performance of covenants, etc.
any bond, note, bill, certificate, or the like, as of a government or a corporation, serving as evidence of indebtedness.
an indebtedness or amount of indebtedness.
a favor, service, or benefit for which gratitude is due.
a debt of gratitude:
He felt an obligation to his teacher.
the state of being under a debt, as of gratitude, for a favor, service, or benefit.
Origin of obligation
1250-1300; Middle English obligacioun < Old French obligation < Latin obligātiōn- (stem of obligātiō) a binding, equivalent to obligāt(us) bound (see obligate) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
preobligation, noun
reobligation, noun
superobligation, noun
1. responsibility. See duty. 5. contract, covenant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for obligation
  • Rural areas still see life in terms of face-to-face personal relationships and personal obligation and responsibility.
  • It is interesting to see the role of the psychologist in two-fold: their duty to their country and their obligation as a doctor.
  • If subsistence fishermen have the right to fish, they also have the obligation to sustain the fishing grounds.
  • The point being that a play doesn't necessarily have an obligation to convey a moral, social, or political message.
  • But that doesn't relieve society of the obligation to make the roads as safe as possible.
  • The anger is understandable, and voters are under no obligation to be consistent.
  • It amounts to a predatory system of obligation, set down in no laws, enforced by implied threat.
  • Winters's comments were filtered through the jury, many of whose members didn't feel much obligation to the master plan.
  • The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each.
  • Shall had the meaning of command or obligation, and will of wish.
British Dictionary definitions for obligation


a moral or legal requirement; duty
the act of obligating or the state of being obligated
(law) a legally enforceable agreement to perform some act, esp to pay money, for the benefit of another party
  1. a written contract containing a penalty
  2. an instrument acknowledging indebtedness to secure the repayment of money borrowed
a person or thing to which one is bound morally or legally
something owed in return for a service or favour
a service or favour for which one is indebted
Derived Forms
obligational, adjective
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 obligation

c.1300, from Old French obligacion "obligation, duty, responsibility" (early 13c.) and directly from Latin obligationem (nominative obligatio) "an engaging or pledging," literally "a binding" (but rarely used in this sense), noun of action from past participle stem of obligare (see oblige). The notion is of binding with promises or by law or duty.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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