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 In its first, six-episode season, the U.S. version was too beholden to the U.K. original. oregonlive, "Missing your co-workers? 14 TV workplace comedies to watch while staying home," 2 July 2020 Activists also say local politicians are more beholden to the city’s mainland population, which has jumped to 180,000 people not directly affected, for the most part, by the same issues as the lagoon dwellers. Colleen Barry, USA TODAY, "'Venice doesn't have a chance at the moment': Locals struggle to save tourist-heavy city after historic floods," 19 Nov. 2019 Democracy must not be beholden to the highest bidder. oregonlive, "Here is what the 3 Democrats running for Oregon secretary of state say about how they’d do the job," 30 Apr. 2020 America will once again be beholden to foreign governments. Matt Gallagher, Ceo, Houston Chronicle, "State, federal leaders should aid U.S. oil industry," 27 Mar. 2020 The Knesset was assembled under a High Court order, in spite of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s effort to obstruct it, to elect a new Speaker—one who would not be beholden to Netanyahu. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, "Amid a Political and Public-Health Crisis, Israel’s Opposition Leader Shocks Everyone by Ceding Power to Netanyahu," 31 Mar. 2020 That leaves just two major energy technologies, nuclear and geothermal, that aren’t beholden to the sun. Rhett Allain, Wired, "How Long Could the World Run on Geothermal Power?," 10 Mar. 2020 The March Air Base evacuees aren't beholden to any schedule, except for meal service times, twice-daily medical screenings and morning meetings with the CDC. Aj Willingham And Lucy Kafanov, CNN, "For those in quarantine at this air base, it's Zumba classes, sandwiches and hours of downtime," 5 Feb. 2020 Patients had no way of knowing that their dental office was managed by a company beholden to Wall Street investors or that their dentists and hygienists were expected to meet revenue goals. USA Today, "Dentists under pressure to drill ‘healthy teeth’ for profit, former insiders allege," 19 Mar. 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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for beholden

Last Updated

6 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Beholden.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

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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

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with beholden

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