obeyed; obeying

transitive verb

: to follow the commands or guidance of
He always obeys his parents.
: to conform to or comply with
obey an order
Falling objects obey the laws of physics.

intransitive verb

: to behave obediently
The dog does not always obey.
obeyer noun

Examples of obey in a Sentence

His dog has learned to obey several commands. He always obeys his parents. The children must obey the rules. The children must learn to obey.
Recent Examples on the Web The ad appealed to King for patience in dealing with the issues of segregation, calling him an outside agitator and asking protesters to obey the laws. USA TODAY, 14 Jan. 2024 Anglophone books, meanwhile, obey no such visual rules. Hazlitt, 27 Mar. 2024 Homeowners should obey these warnings by immediately backing away from the snake and giving it a clear path to escape. Madeline Nguyen, The Arizona Republic, 22 Mar. 2024 The villagers are content to fish, farm and feast, to obey their nightly curfew, to do what they’re told by the scientists. Sarah Yang, Sunset Magazine, 19 Mar. 2024 The civil services and the diplomatic corps are also prone to obey the prime minister and his party, even when the demands clash with constitutional norms. Ramachandra Guha, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 Scholars discovered a lot of these sound shift patterns, each obeying different rules, as one language gave birth to another. Kurt Kleiner, Discover Magazine, 16 Feb. 2024 According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, people in the Moorish National Republic have come into conflict with federal and state authorities over their refusal to obey laws and government regulations. Sarah Rumpf-Whitten, Fox News, 27 Jan. 2024 She is barred from having any weapons or ammunition and must obey three protective orders put in place at her arraignment hearing. Justin Muszynski, Hartford Courant, 11 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'obey.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English obeien, borrowed from Anglo-French obeir, going back to Latin oboedīre, from ob- "toward, in the direction of" + -oedīre, probably unstressed form (with -oe- of uncertain origin) of audīre "to hear" — more at ob-, audible entry 1

Note: The -oe- in oboedīre is peculiar both because it is not the expected result of -au- in a non-initial syllable (the regular outcome is -ū-) and because -oe- is in any case rare non-initially. Various attempts have been made to account for the irregularity. Reflecting earlier suggestions, Michiel de Vaan hypothesizes pre-Latin *ób-awizdijō > *obowizdijō > *oboizdijō (rounding of a before w, which is then lost, prior to the weakening of a to u) > oboediō (with z blocking monophthongization of -oi- to -ū- before succumbing to cluster reduction) (see Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages, Brill, 2008). As an alternative to assumptions of questionable phonetic change, it has also been suggested that a base other than audīre is at issue (Michael Weiss suggests *ob-bhoi̯diō, from a nominal derivative of the base of fīdere "to trust" [see faith entry 1]; see Outline of the Historical and Comparative Grammar of Latin, Ann Arbor, 2009, p. 120).

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near obey

Cite this Entry

“Obey.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obey. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


obeyed; obeying
: to follow the commands or guidance of
obeyed her parents
: to be obedient
trained the dog to obey
: to act in agreement with : carry out
obey an order
obey the rules

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