verb \ə-ˈblīj\

Definition of oblige




  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  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

  3. 2a :  to put in one's debt by a favor or service We are much obliged for your help.b :  to do a favor for always ready to oblige a friend

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to do something as or as if as a favor When he was asked for advice, he obliged.



oblige was our Word of the Day on 04/19/2014. Hear the podcast!

Examples of oblige in a sentence

  1. The law obliges the government to release certain documents to the public.

  2. Her job obliges her to work overtime and on weekends.

  3. She's always ready to oblige her friends.

  4. Thank you for your help. I'm happy to oblige.

  5. They asked for food and he obliged with soup and sandwiches.

Did You Know?

Oblige shares some similarities with its close relative obligate, but there are also differences. Oblige derived via Middle English and Anglo-French from Latin obligare ("to bind to"), a combination of ob- ("to or toward") and ligare ("to bind"), whereas obligate descended directly from the past participle of obligare. Both oblige and obligate are frequently used in their past participle forms to express a kind of legal or moral constraint. Obligated once meant "indebted for a service or favor," but today it typically means "required to do something because the law requires it or because it is the right thing to do." Obliged is now the preferred term for the sense that Southern author Flannery O'Connor used in a 1952 letter: "I would be much obliged if you would send me six copies."

Origin and Etymology of oblige

Middle English, from Anglo-French obliger, from Latin obligare, literally, to bind to, from ob- toward + ligare to bind — more at ligature

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of 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.

OBLIGE Defined for English Language Learners


verb \ə-ˈblīj\

Definition of oblige for English Language Learners

  • : to force or require (someone or something) to do something because of a law or rule or because it is necessary

  • : to do something that someone has asked you to do : to do a favor for (someone)

OBLIGE Defined for Kids


verb \ə-ˈblīj\

Definition of oblige for Students




  1. 1 :  2force 1, compel The soldiers were obliged to retreat.

  2. 2 :  to do a favor for or do something as a favor “… I don't mind doing what I can—just to oblige you …” — Hugh Lofting, Dr. Dolittle

  3. 3 :  to earn the gratitude of You will oblige me by coming early.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up oblige? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to criticize severely

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