noblesse oblige

no·​blesse oblige | \ nō-ˈbles-ə-ˈblēzh How to pronounce noblesse oblige (audio) \

Definition of noblesse oblige

: the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth

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Noblesse Oblige Has French Origins

In French, "noblesse oblige" means literally "nobility obligates." French speakers transformed the phrase into a noun, which English speakers picked up in the 19th century. Then, as now, "noblesse oblige" referred to the unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others. Later, by extension, it also came to refer to the obligation of anyone who is in a better position than others - due, for example, to high office or celebrity - to act respectably and responsibly.

Examples of noblesse oblige in a Sentence

He was raised to have a strong sense of noblesse oblige.

Recent Examples on the Web

Taken further, these credos of noblesse oblige could be viewed as an open invitation for reverse discrimination. Sam Walker, WSJ, "The Privilege Trap: Can Rich Kids Become Good Leaders?," 6 Oct. 2018 Much more significant than a one-time $50-million noblesse oblige gesture. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Data Sheet—Sorting Good From Bad in the Tech Stock Rout," 28 Mar. 2018 Equality of opportunity has produced a new meritocratic aristocracy that has all the aloofness of the old aristocracy with none of its sense of noblesse oblige. The Economist, "A call to armsLiberalism is the most successful idea of the past 400 years," 25 Jan. 2018 Drawn by what Andreessen calls noblesse oblige, Whitman recognized an opportunity to revive the faltering legacy of the company that birthed SiliconValley: Hewlett-Packard, founded in 1939 in a Palo Alto garage. Jen Wieczner, Fortune, "HPE’s Meg Whitman Won’t Be Uber’s CEO. But She Could Be the First Female President," 22 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'noblesse oblige.' 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 noblesse oblige

1837, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for noblesse oblige

French, literally, nobility obligates

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noblesse oblige




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Time Traveler for noblesse oblige

The first known use of noblesse oblige was in 1837

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More Definitions for noblesse oblige

noblesse oblige


English Language Learners Definition of noblesse oblige

formal : the idea that people who have high social rank or wealth should be helpful and generous to people of lower rank or to people who are poor

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food or victuals

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