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 Writers throughout Los Angeles obliged, marching and protesting near Walt Disney Co.’s Burbank headquarters, Paramount Pictures’ Hollywood lot, Universal Pictures in Universal City and the Fox studio in Century City. Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times, 23 Sep. 2023 The bear obliges and soon scampers off into the woods after stepping out of the truck. Brenton Blanchet, Peoplemag, 22 Sep. 2023 Tournament officials obliged, giving her a wild-card entry for the doubles draw. Ivan Carter, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Sep. 2023 Cecconi obliged, blowing a high fastball past a flailing Garcia. The Arizona Republic, 29 Aug. 2023 An Australian lawyer and academic, Ms. Edwards said she had twice been obliged to postpone visits to Ukraine for security reasons, but the buildup of evidence had made a visit in person imperative. Carlotta Gall, New York Times, 10 Sep. 2023 Instead, they are prevented from leaving and are obliged to work as online scammers, ripping off other unknowing victims. Patrick Frater, Variety, 8 Sep. 2023 Most of the crowd during Friday night's stop did not oblige. Naledi Ushe, USA TODAY, 5 Sep. 2023 And Milan, which suddenly feels like the most forward-thinking city in Italy—a place of big ideas, investment, and innovation, busily spouting new subway lines, cutting-edge hotels, and infrastructure ahead of the 2026 Winter Olympics—is more than ready to oblige. Kerry Olsen, Condé Nast Traveler, 31 Aug. 2023 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 27 Sep. 2023.

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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