be·​hold·​en | \ bi-ˈhōl-dən, bē-\

Definition of beholden 

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for beholden


bounden [archaic], indebted, obligated, obliged

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

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 Too many lawmakers in D.C. are still beholden to the gun lobby. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "Gun Control Measures in the Midterms: How You Can Make a Difference With Your Vote," 30 Oct. 2018 Gracias is beholden to Musk; Murdoch has his own ambitions. Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge, "If James Murdoch is the new Tesla chairman, that’s bad news for Elon Musk," 12 Oct. 2018 For K-pop stars, their looks are beholden to whatever their latest album's concept is. Devon Abelman, Allure, "The Rose Opens Up About the Pressure to Have Good Skin in K-Pop and Beyond," 5 Oct. 2018 Spears knows that perfumes shouldn't be beholden to societal gender constructs, so this new perfume has a bottle and scent that appeals to all (though the scent, to be honest, is still quite traditionally sweet). Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "Britney Spears Is Launching a A Unisex Fragrance Called Prerogative," 17 July 2018 That transition seems to have been postponed, possibly because Apple doesn’t want to become too beholden to Samsung. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "Apple’s Display Plan Won’t Give Screen Makers Much Relief," 15 June 2018 That's likely to alarm advocates of stricter immigration limits, like the Center for Immigration Studies, which has already expressed concern the USDA is too beholden to the agricultural industry on issues like immigration. Emily Cadei, sacbee, "Trump administration pushes changes to farmworker visa," 15 June 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.

See More

First Known Use of beholden

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for beholden

Middle English, from past participle of beholden

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about beholden

Listen to Our Podcast about beholden

Statistics for beholden

Last Updated

1 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for beholden

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

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).


a person who helps groups work together

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Liar, Liar Quiz

  • alt-5761dbe2ba986
  • Someone who pretends to be sick in order to avoid work is a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!