obliged; obliging

transitive verb

: to constrain by physical, moral, or legal force or by the exigencies of circumstance
obliged to find a job
felt obliged to share it with her
: to put in one's debt by a favor or service
We are much obliged for your help.
: to do a favor for
always ready to oblige a friend

intransitive verb

: to do something as or as if as a favor
When he was asked for advice, he obliged.
obliger noun

Did you know?

If you are obliged by a rule or law you are metaphorically bound by it—that is, you are required to obey it. The idea of binding links the word to its Latin source, ligāre, meaning “to fasten, bind.” In the most common modern uses of oblige, though, the idea of binding is somewhat masked: it is applied when someone is bound by a debt for some favor or service, as in “We’re much obliged to you for the help,” but in the phrase “happy to oblige” it simply expresses a willingness to do someone a favor, as in “They needed a ride and we were happy to oblige.”

Choose the Right Synonym for oblige

force, compel, coerce, constrain, oblige mean to make someone or something yield.

force is the general term and implies the overcoming of resistance by the exertion of strength, power, or duress.

forced to flee for their lives

compel typically suggests overcoming of resistance or unwillingness by an irresistible force.

compelled to admit my mistake

coerce suggests overcoming resistance or unwillingness by actual or threatened violence or pressure.

coerced into signing over the rights

constrain suggests the effect of a force or circumstance that limits freedom of action or choice.

constrained by conscience

oblige implies the constraint of necessity, law, or duty.

felt obliged to go

Examples of oblige in a Sentence

The law obliges the government to release certain documents to the public. Her job obliges her to work overtime and on weekends. She's always ready to oblige her friends. “Thank you for your help.” “I'm happy to oblige.” They asked for food and he obliged with soup and sandwiches.
Recent Examples on the Web Had Gray begun his book with a true early liberal thinker, he would have been obliged to tell a different story. Helena Rosenblatt, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 Stewart’s takeaway was that both men were obliged prove their fitness for office. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 13 Feb. 2024 Like other prospective senior U.S. officials, Mattis was obliged to report information about his work history and personal finances to the Office of Government Ethics. Nate Jones, Washington Post, 6 Feb. 2024 Help the host plan for how much food and drink to get. Follow the dress code: Whether you’re supposed to don an ugly-Christmas-sweater party or sparkly cocktail attire, oblige the host. Charlottefive Staff, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 Australia has been debating for several years how – and which – streamers should be obliged to reinvest in local content and legislation is expected, possibly this year. Nick Vivarelli, Variety, 17 Jan. 2024 As someone who writes about aging in a state that has what might be the oldest tree in the world, a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains — along with countless senior citizens of the redwood and sequoia variety — I’m obliged to make a pilgrimage. Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 3 Jan. 2024 But after Berhe asked for a lengthy sentence, the judge obliged. Olivia Diaz, Washington Post, 30 Jan. 2024 Peters obliged, and the award-winning mixologist showed us how to make two drinks: – The East to West Cocktail, featuring Krupnikas (a traditional Lithuanian style of liqueur) from Durham, Fair Games Ferris Wine from Pittsboro and High West Double Rye whiskey from Utah. Corey Inscoe, Charlotte Observer, 29 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'oblige.' 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 obligen, oblischen "to impose on as a legal or moral duty, bind by oath or contract," borrowed from Anglo-French obliger, borrowed from Latin obligāre "to tie up, restrain by tying, assign, place under a legal or moral constraint, pledge," from ob- "toward, facing" + ligāre "to fasten, bind" — more at ob-, ligature

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near oblige

Cite this Entry

“Oblige.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oblige. Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


obliged; obliging
: to compel by pressure : force entry 2 sense 1
the soldiers were obliged to retreat
: to earn the gratitude of
you will oblige me by coming early
: to do a favor for or do something as a favor
glad to oblige
obliger noun

More from Merriam-Webster on oblige

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