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


bounden [archaic], 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

For a short time, the military was beholden to NASA to fly its spy satellites into space. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "On NASA’s birthday, a reminder that we can thank Nixon for the agency," 1 Oct. 2018 Photo: Zuma Press Chinese tech giants such as Huawei are especially beholden to the Communist Party, which shields them from foreign competition with restrictive trade policies and exercises ultimate control over their ability to operate. Josh Chin, WSJ, "U.S. Believes It Doesn’t Need to Show ‘Proof’ Huawei Is a Spy Threat," 23 Jan. 2019 Crew members are also known to be overworked, which, according to Klein, is because cruise ships are not beholden to US labor laws. Aditi Shrikant, Vox, "The case against cruises," 15 Nov. 2018 True, the former Cardinals and their fans are not beholden to the NCAA. Danielle Lerner, The Courier-Journal, "2013 U of L players are proud of championship even if banner is gone," 30 June 2018 For several years, Arway had been unsuccessfully prodding the tea party-beholden Republican majority, whose leaders are from the state’s more rural or uber-conservative counties, to pass a law so that fishing license fees would rise from $21 to $27. Maria Panaritis,, "In Harrisburg politics, revenge is power. And sometimes policy | Maria Panaritis," 8 Mar. 2018 The board was widely seen as beholden to the president, and the appointments looked like an attempt by him to keep control of the judiciary. The Economist, "Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno tries to bury the legacy of his predecessor," 2 Feb. 2018 And since Amazon controls nearly half of the e-commerce market, according to a July report by eMarketer Retail, that reliance means brands are increasingly beholden to Amazon. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "Amazon is asking brands to change the way their products are packaged — and some are doing it," 17 Dec. 2018 But many Democratic officeholders are still beholden to unions, whose protectionist rhetoric dominates the party’s trade agenda. Ed Gerwin, WSJ, "Trump’s Tariffs Give Democrats a Chance to Lead on Trade," 21 Oct. 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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Last Updated

13 Mar 2019

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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 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on beholden

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with beholden

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for beholden

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).


an enemy or opponent

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