oblig·​a·​to·​ry ə-ˈbli-gə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce obligatory (audio)
ˈä-bli-gə- How to pronounce obligatory (audio)
: binding in law or conscience
The ordinance made it obligatory that homeowners clear the snow from the sidewalks.
: relating to or enforcing an obligation
a writ obligatory
: mandatory, required
obligatory military service
also : so commonplace as to be a convention, fashion, or cliché
the obligatory death scene in opera
The thriller included the obligatory chase scene.
: obligate sense 1
an obligatory biped

Examples of obligatory in a Sentence

The training is obligatory for all personnel. This action movie includes the obligatory chase scenes.
Recent Examples on the Web Does an obligatory, and legally necessary credit of Andy Ngo, for the use of seconds of footage that shows where America’s conflict resides mean Garland supports him? Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Apr. 2024 Some band comebacks feel obligatory, or financially motivated. Brad Sanders, SPIN, 10 Apr. 2024 Traina consistently donates to mosques during Ramadan in what constitutes sadaqa, a concept in Islam of voluntarily giving charity, a slight variation from the more obligatory zakat. Monica Haider, CNN, 11 Mar. 2024 Once the first of five obligatory prayers of the day, Fajr, begins at dawn, so does their fasting. The Enquirer, 13 Mar. 2024 Limited access to water means others cannot make the obligatory ablution before prayer. Sana Noor Haq, CNN, 13 Mar. 2024 Winners often acknowledge their fellow nominees with a few obligatory words. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, 8 Mar. 2024 After the five obligatory daily prayers, an optional prayer called Taraweeh is performed at night, meant as a chance to strengthen faith, connect to God, and seek forgiveness. The Enquirer, 7 Mar. 2024 The suit’s outcome, however, could influence obligatory implicit-bias training for all licensed professionals. Ronnie Cohen, Los Angeles Times, 29 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'obligatory.' 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 obligatorie, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French obligatorie, obligatoire, borrowed from Latin obligātōrius, from obligāre "to tie up, restrain by tying, place under a legal or moral constraint" + -tōrius, deverbal adjective suffix, originally forming derivatives from agent nouns ending in -tōr-, -tor — more at oblige

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of obligatory was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near obligatory

Cite this Entry

“Obligatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obligatory. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


oblig·​a·​to·​ry ə-ˈblig-ə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce obligatory (audio)
 also  ˈäb-li-gə-
: not to be left out, forgotten, or ignored : being required

Medical Definition


ə-ˈblig-ə-ˌtōr-ē, ä-, -ˌtȯr- also ˈäb-li-gə-
ə-ˌblig-ə-ˈtōr-ə-lē, ä-, -ˈtȯr- also ˌäb-li-gə-

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