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

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 is recorded in the Middle-English Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Indebted, which entered English through Anglo-French, is older and still very much in use. Those who don't mind sounding like English speakers of yore have another synonym of beholden to choose from: a now-archaic sense of bounden. That word is today more often used with the meaning "made obligatory" or "binding," as in "our bounden duty."

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 In those days, record labels were more beholden to the big-box stores that carried CDs — and the parental concerns that came with them. Jeff Ihaza, Rolling Stone, 5 Aug. 2022 Since then, Ahmed said, Krishnamoorthi had become beholden to special interests and political action committees, having raised more than $12 million cash on hand at the end of March, compared with $275,00 for Ahmed. Robert Mccoppin, Chicago Tribune, 18 June 2022 What other explanation is there if the country remains beholden to rich, powerful families and their global companies? Anna Altman, The New Republic, 27 May 2022 This sort of antagonism and attention from Trump, among a Republican electorate still largely beholden to him, was supposed to spell political death for any member of the Party who got in his way. The New Yorker, 23 May 2022 Even if, uh, the legislature remains beholden to the NRA and the extreme gun. cleveland, 11 Apr. 2022 Scenes like these can stiffen the shoulders of even the least cringe-beholden amongst us, but Bailey and Gemmell nail every second. ELLE, 2 Apr. 2022 Fridman and Aven made a point of steering clear of politics at a time when Russia’s billionaires became increasingly beholden to the Kremlin. Washington Post, 1 Apr. 2022 For years, players were programmed to feel beholden to teams and fulfilled their contracts until their franchises discarded them for younger, more desirable options. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, 25 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

12 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Beholden.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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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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