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

Did You Know?

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 Its pages are filled with pictures of generals shaking hands with foreign dignitaries, attending meetings and making obeisance to Buddhist monks. The Economist, "Myanmar’s military coup has riven the Buddhist monkhood," 31 Mar. 2021 Governors who got more had to show obeisance to Trump. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, "The Plague Year," 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, "Gratitude: What We Owe to Our Country," 26 Nov. 2020 But that skepticism faded and was replaced by a sort of obeisance. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, "The Death of the Good Internet Was an Inside Job," 31 Dec. 2019 One running theme of the series is the guests’ vocal eagerness to humble themselves before Beyoncé and her empire; DJ Khaled tells an anecdote that doubles as an ace performance of cozy obeisance. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "Four Shows at the Center of a Golden Age of Hip-Hop Television," 1 Nov. 2019 That’s unlikely though, given Nigeria’s conservative family culture, which often places obeisance above perceived dissent. Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, "WhatsApp is the medium of choice for older Nigerians spreading fake news," 22 Oct. 2019 Some also use helicopter services to pay quick obeisance. Washington Post, "India promotes Hindu pilgrimage as sign of peace in Kashmir," 2 Aug. 2019 In Hong Kong this week, local business leaders have been falling all over themselves to affirm obeisance to Beijing. Fortune, "Can Trump ‘Order’ US Firms Out of China? Should He? — CEO Daily," 24 Aug. 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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Last Updated

8 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

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