\ ō-ˈbā How to pronounce obey (audio) , ə- \
obeyed; obeying

Definition of obey

transitive verb

1 : to follow the commands or guidance of He always obeys his parents.
2 : 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.

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Other Words from 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Because of some inborn lack—of will, of understanding, of discipline—people of color will never fully obey, never properly assimilate, never be redeemed by whiteness. Chloe Angyal, Marie Claire, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Ballet," 22 Apr. 2021 Most visitors obey the rules, but the small numbers that don’t harass employees, adding to their anxiety. Gabrielle Russon, orlandosentinel.com, "Disney World union says theme park employees deserve the vaccine now," 19 Mar. 2021 Of 96 cases the U.S. attorney’s office in Portland filed last year charging protesters with federal crimes, including assaulting federal officers, civil disorder, and failing to obey, prosecutors have dropped 47 of them, government documents show. Sadie Gurman, WSJ, "Almost Half of Federal Cases Against Portland Rioters Have Been Dismissed," 15 Apr. 2021 The letter cited risky behavior such as not wearing seat belts or failing to obey the speed limit. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, "Increased use of video chats is turning us to 'Zoom zombie' drivers, survey claims," 8 Apr. 2021 Both are facing charges including obstructing a highway, failing to obey police orders and interfering with official duties while at the protest. Audrey Jensen, The Arizona Republic, "Police arrest 2 more people a week after Anthony Cano protest in Chandler," 23 Mar. 2021 Councilman Christopher Rodriguez said homelessness is not a crime, but the homeless must obey the laws. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Oceanside approves emergency measures to clean up homeless camps," 8 Apr. 2021 Rodriguez-Tornes was brought up to be a victim, the court said: Starting at age 5, her mother told her to obey her future husband’s orders and accept spousal abuse, and beat her almost daily to prepare her for the future. Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, "Mexican woman beaten for feminist views eligible for asylum in U.S., appeals court rules," 5 Apr. 2021 Most citizens currently must follow quarantine rules and social distancing, stay out of school, and obey all the laws. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "The Ten Radical New Rules That Are Changing America," 1 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'obey.' 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 obey

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

History and Etymology for obey

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).

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Time Traveler for obey

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Obey.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obey. Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for obey



English Language Learners Definition of obey

: to do what someone tells you to do or what a rule, law, etc., says you must do


\ ō-ˈbā How to pronounce obey (audio) \
obeyed; obeying

Kids Definition of obey

1 : to follow the commands or guidance of Dogs are trained to obey their masters.
2 : to comply with : carry out obey an order obey the rules

Choose the Right Synonym for obey

obey and mind mean to do what a person says. obey is used when someone quickly yields to the authority of another or follows a rule or law. Obey your parents. Obey all traffic laws. mind is used like obey especially when speaking to children but it often means paying attention to the wishes or commands of another. Mind what I said about talking.

More from Merriam-Webster on obey

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for obey

Nglish: Translation of obey for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obey for Arabic Speakers

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