obei·​sance | \ ō-ˈbē-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce obeisance (audio) , ə-, -ˈbā- How to pronounce obeisance (audio) \

Definition of obeisance

1 : a movement of the body made in token of respect or submission : bow After making his obeisances he approached the altar.
2 : acknowledgment of another's superiority or importance : homage makes obeisance to her mentors The players paid obeisance to their coach.

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Other Words from obeisance

obeisant \ ō-​ˈbē-​sᵊnt How to pronounce obeisance (audio) , ə-​ , -​ˈbā-​ \ adjective
obeisantly adverb

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When it first appeared in English in the late 14th century, "obeisance" shared the same meaning as "obedience." This makes sense given that "obeisance" can be traced back to the Anglo-French verb obeir, which means "to obey" and is also an ancestor of our word 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.

Examples of obeisance in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Schubert is going to rely on her record rather than Trump obeisance to win over Republicans. Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 25 July 2021 Over the course of four years, this can become a subtle but real habit of obeisance, a condition of moral and spiritual surrender. R.r. Reno, WSJ, 7 June 2021 Amid candidates who pay obeisance to all the leftist pieties—with occasional exceptions from Mr. Adams—Mr. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 14 May 2021 Blinken described the Biden administration policy toward Russia in broad terms, of carrots and sticks but without the obeisance of Trump, in an interview with the BBC. Los Angeles Times, 6 May 2021 Its pages are filled with pictures of generals shaking hands with foreign dignitaries, attending meetings and making obeisance to Buddhist monks. The Economist, 31 Mar. 2021 Governors who got more had to show obeisance to Trump. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, 28 Dec. 2020 The dead being beyond our reach, our debt can only be expressed to one another; but our gratitude is also a form of obeisance — yes, to the dead. William F. Buckley Jr., National Review, 26 Nov. 2020 But that skepticism faded and was replaced by a sort of obeisance. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 31 Dec. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of obeisance

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for obeisance

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Obeisance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obeisance. Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for obeisance



English Language Learners Definition of obeisance

: a movement of your body (such as bowing) that shows respect for someone or something
: respect for someone or something


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