obei·​sance ō-ˈbē-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce obeisance (audio)
-ˈbā- How to pronounce obeisance (audio)
: a movement of the body made in token of respect or submission : bow
After making his obeisances he approached the altar.
: acknowledgment of another's superiority or importance : homage
makes obeisance to her mentors
The players paid obeisance to their coach.
ō-ˈbē-sᵊnt How to pronounce obeisance (audio)
obeisantly adverb

Did you know?

When it first appeared in English in the 14th century, obeisance shared the same meaning as obedience. This makes sense given that obeisance can be traced back to the Anglo-French obeir, a verb meaning "to obey" that is also an ancestor of English's obey. The other senses of obeisance also date from the 14th century, but they have stood the test of time whereas the "obedience" sense is now obsolete.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web But The Bear is also thrilling, funny, beautifully rendered, and sharp about how hierarchical workplaces can prize obeisance over potential and aggression over achievement. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, 21 Dec. 2022 The tight circle of poets and musicians and noblemen paying her obeisance was portrayed by her enemies as a ring of romantic assignations. Tina Brown, New York Times, 15 Dec. 2022 The styling combined dutiful obeisance to Franco Scaglione’s Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale with new elements like a face featuring bi-xenon headlamps. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 20 June 2022 Publicly, McCarthy and the Republican Party have continued to show widespread obeisance to Trump, fearful of drawing his wrath or having his supporters turn on them. Michael Scherer And Josh Dawsey, Anchorage Daily News, 14 May 2022 China wants nothing less than to restore itself as the Middle Kingdom, owed the respect and obeisance of the rest of the world. Rich Lowry, National Review, 25 Feb. 2022 In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche tracks two types of youth: a youth of saying yes to everything around you, of obeisance and placation, and a youth of saying no to everything, of refusal and rebellion. Lynn Steger Strong, The New Republic, 16 Mar. 2022 Fox News is paying the price for its obeisance to former president Donald Trump. Washington Post, 8 Mar. 2022 Even those bigwigs paid obeisance to someone and, eventually, by the transitive property of Saudi deference, to the king himself. Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, 3 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'obeisance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English obeissance, obeysaunce "obedience, submission, gesture indicating submission," borrowed from Anglo-French obeissaunce, from obeisant "willing to obey" (from present participle of obeir "to submit to the authority of, obey") + -aunce -ance — more at obey

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of obeisance was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near obeisance

Cite this Entry

“Obeisance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obeisance. Accessed 30 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a movement of the body (as a bow) made as a sign of respect
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