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 And, unlike the goal of simply becoming fabulously wealthy — which one could also accomplish by winning the lottery or marrying a nonroyal oil magnate — princesshood came with a sense of noblesse oblige. Washington Post, "Meghan Markle just flipped the princess fantasy on its big crowned head," 10 Jan. 2020 Enhanced representations of art by women, African-Americans, Africans, Latin-Americans, and Asians can feel tentative, pitched between self-evident justice and noblesse oblige. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "The Exuberance of MOMA’s Expansion," 14 Oct. 2019 Where others see noblesse oblige, in other words, Giridharadas spies disingenuous self-dealing. Fortune, "An Insider Takes Aim at Corporate America’s ‘Elite Charade’," 20 Aug. 2019 For some of America’s elite in the 1960s and ’70s, supporting efforts to limit population growth was partly an act of noblesse oblige. Nicholas Kulish, New York Times, "Why an Heiress Spent Her Fortune Trying to Keep Immigrants Out," 14 Aug. 2019 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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Time Traveler for noblesse oblige

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The first known use of noblesse oblige was in 1837

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Last Updated

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Noblesse oblige.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for noblesse oblige

noblesse oblige

How to pronounce noblesse oblige (audio)

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

Comments on noblesse oblige

What made you want to look up noblesse oblige? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


dull or mediocre

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