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

Fighters, especially young fighters, are beholden to promoters. Chris Mannix,, "Fallout From a Knockout: How One Tragic Night Changed a Boxer's Life Forever," 13 June 2019 Unlike police chiefs appointed by mayors and beholden to city councils, sheriffs answer to no one but the voters who elect them. Connor Sheets |,, "After losing reelection, these Alabama sheriffs took it out on their successors - and the public," 12 June 2019 But the new king and his favorite son, Mohammad, quickly showed themselves to be little beholden to tradition. Daniel Benjamin, The New York Review of Books, "Reckless in Riyadh," 30 May 2019 This willingness to experiment without feeling beholden to fan expectations about what games should be sold or shared makes Itchio feel like a garden of digital possibility, one unburdened by corporate overlords or the growing malaise of loot boxes. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "The game store that outshines Steam by staying small and weird," 29 Nov. 2018 Business of Fashion notes that Slimane doesn’t feel beholden to the minimalist casual luxury vibe created—and beloved among the label’s loyal customers—by former Céline designer Phoebe Philo. Cam Wolf, GQ, "Hedi Slimane's Céline Will Borrow a Trick from the Supreme Playbook," 8 June 2018 And the good thing is all of us that are insurgents are not beholden to any form of corporation. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Delaware Democratic Senate Hopeful Kerri Harris Is a Queer Woman of Color Who Wants Politicians With "Diversity of Experience"," 29 Aug. 2018 Real change probably can’t happen until 2019, after voters have had a chance to elect state lawmakers and a new Congress that aren’t beholden to the NRA. Will Bunch,, "Waffle House tragedy shows us how to curb mass killings. Will anyone listen? | Will Bunch," 24 Apr. 2018 To its credit, the 92-year-old Martha Graham Dance Company is not beholden to its founder’s style. Siobhan Burke, New York Times, "Review: For the Martha Graham Company, Opposites Attract," 12 Apr. 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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Statistics for beholden

Last Updated

19 Jun 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

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behavior toward others

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