be·​hold·​en | \ bi-ˈhōl-dən How to pronounce beholden (audio) , 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


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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 But in this new streaming era, country artists are less beholden to the Nashville establishment than a group like the Chicks (née Dixie) nearly 20 years ago. Andrew R. Chow, Time, 6 May 2021 But skeptics argue that TikTok's parent, ByteDance, is ultimately a Chinese business that's still beholden to Beijing. Michelle Toh, CNN, 3 May 2021 If this resonates, practice with general notes, never getting too beholden to a particular turn of phrase. Jen Jamula And Allison Goldberg, Forbes, 28 Apr. 2021 Without their predecessors’ revolutionary bona fides, Communist leaders of the new generation are expected to be more beholden to the demands of the population to validate their leadership. Whitney Eulich, The Christian Science Monitor, 21 Apr. 2021 Rural West Virginians are less beholden to, and also less served by, utilities, dominant culture and governments. Star Tribune, 12 Apr. 2021 Italy's mafia reportedly provided stimulus for some struggling small businesses in the country and there is concern that these establishments will become beholden to these mobsters going forward. Fox News, 26 Feb. 2021 The conflict may have exposed just how beholden the Biden administration is to the teachers unions and to a policy of caution in the extreme. Washington Examiner Staff, Washington Examiner, 8 Feb. 2021 Once thought of as a haven on China’s doorstep, Hong Kong is now more beholden than ever to the tightening grip of the Chinese Communist Party. David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 16 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for beholden

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

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Last Updated

20 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Beholden.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for beholden


be·​hold·​en | \ bi-ˈhol-dən How to pronounce beholden (audio) \

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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