be·hold·en | \bi-ˈhōl-dən, bē-\

Definition of beholden 

: being under obligation for a favor or gift : indebted I'm beholden to you

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Synonyms for beholden


indebted, obligated, obliged

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Did You Know?

Have you ever found yourself under obligation to someone else for a gift or favor? It's a common experience, and, not surprisingly, many of the words describing this condition have been part of the English language for centuries. "Beholden" was first recorded in writing in the 14th century, in the poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." "Indebted," which entered English through Anglo-French, is even older, first appearing in the 13th century. English speakers in the 14th century would also have had another synonym of "beholden" to choose from, a now-obsolete sense of "bounden," which today means "made obligatory" or "binding."

Examples of beholden in a Sentence

not wanting to be beholden to anyone, he insisted on paying his own way

Recent Examples on the Web

That’s the premise of one of our favorite films from Telluride Mountainfilm, Dark Money, which traces financial corruption in a Montana election to show how interest groups steer politics and make candidates beholden to the groups that pay them. Heather Hansman, Outside Online, "The Newest Adventure Movies You Can Watch Right Now," 12 July 2018 The Republican Party, by contrast, is beholden to reactionary interests who want the government to cut public spending on health care, so as to finance ever-lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Latest Attack on Obamacare Is a Huge Gift to Democrats," 11 June 2018 Protesters have argued that Schubert is beholden to law enforcement groups and can’t be trusted to fairly investigate police officers. Ryan Lillis, sacbee, "Sacramento councilman rescinds D.A. endorsement as Stephon Clark activists call for change | The Sacramento Bee," 11 May 2018 But other Iraqi politicians worry that if a large number of men like al-Asadi win seats in parliament, Iraq will be even more beholden to its eastern neighbor. Washington Post, "Iraq grapples with Iranian influence ahead of May elections," 4 Apr. 2018 Russia forbids many more forms of political expression than Germany does, and local judges are far more beholden to the government. Yascha Mounk, The New Republic, "Germany’s risky law for stopping hate speech on Facebook and Twitter," 3 Apr. 2018 There was concern that this Brazil team was too imbalanced, and too beholden to its star, to really contend. Brian Straus,, "Brazil Hopes Its World Cup Crescendo Continues Into Brutal Knockout Stage Road," 27 June 2018 But these moral tales feel almost foreign to modern-day Star Trek, which feels more beholden to plot twists and CGI spectacle. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "Harlan Ellison Turned Star Trek Into Something More. Could It Happen Again?," 29 June 2018 But Germany imports just 9 percent of all of its energy, which undercuts Trump’s claim that Germany will somehow be beholden to Moscow. Alex Ward, Vox, "Trump blasted US allies within minutes of arriving at NATO summit," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'beholden.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of beholden

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for beholden

Middle English, from past participle of beholden

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Phrases Related to beholden

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Last Updated

25 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for beholden

The first known use of beholden was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for beholden


be·hold·en | \bi-ˈhol-dən \

Kids Definition of beholden

: owing the return of a gift or favor I'm not beholden to anyone for my success.

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Comments on beholden

What made you want to look up beholden? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

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