1

duty

noun du·ty \ ˈdü-tē also ˈdyü- \
Updated on: 15 Nov 2017

Definition of duty

plural duties
1 :conduct due to parents and superiors :respect
  • filial duty and obedience
  • —John Locke
2 a :obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions that arise from one's position (as in life or in a group)
  • was his duty to support his family
  • Her primary duty at the meeting was to take attendance.
  • performs a variety of administrative duties
b (1) :assigned service or business
  • was put on kitchen duty
  • jury duty
(2) :active military service
  • returning from duty overseas
(3) :a period of being on duty
  • report for duty at 7 a.m.
3 a :a moral or legal obligation
  • felt it was their duty to help
b :the force of moral obligation
  • will be ready when duty calls
4 :tax; especially :a tax on imports
  • a 15 percent duty
5 a :work 1c
b (1) :the service required (as of an electric machine) under specified conditions
(2) :functional application :use
  • got double duty out of the trip
(3) :use as a substitute
  • making the word do duty for the thing
  • —Edward Sapir
off duty
:free from assignment or responsibility
  • a police officer who was off duty at the time
on duty
:engaged in or responsible for an assigned task or duty
  • not allowed to take personal calls while on duty

Examples of duty in a Sentence

  1. His primary duty at the event is to take attendance.

  2. If new employees are unable to carry out their duties, they may be fired.

  3. We felt it was our duty to help.

  4. He has a duty to support his family.

  5. They helped her out of a sense of duty.

  6. I'll be ready when duty calls.

  7. Her brother returned from duty overseas.

  8. a twelve-month tour of duty

  9. Many reserve troops were called into active duty.

Recent Examples of duty from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'duty.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of duty

Middle English duete, from Anglo-French deueté, dueté, from deu due

Synonym Discussion of duty

function, office, duty, province mean the acts or operations expected of a person or thing. function implies a definite end or purpose or a particular kind of work.
    • the function of language is two-fold: to communicate emotion and to give information
    • —Aldous Huxley
office is typically applied to the function or service associated with a trade or profession or a special relationship to others.
    • they exercise the offices of the judge, the priest, the counsellor
    • —W. E. Gladstone
duty applies to a task or responsibility imposed by one's occupation, rank, status, or calling.
    • it is the judicial duty of the court, to examine the whole case
    • —R. B. Taney
province applies to a function, office, or duty that naturally or logically falls to one.
    • I felt it was not my province to inquire
    • —Anne Brontë
task, duty, job, chore, stint, assignment mean a piece of work to be done. task implies work imposed by a person in authority or an employer or by circumstance.
    • charged with a variety of tasks
duty implies an obligation to perform or responsibility for performance.
    • the duties of a lifeguard
job applies to a piece of work voluntarily performed; it may sometimes suggest difficulty or importance.
    • the job of turning the company around
chore implies a minor routine activity necessary for maintaining a household or farm.
    • every child was assigned chores
stint implies a carefully allotted or measured quantity of assigned work or service.
    • a 2-month stint as a reporter
assignment implies a definite limited task assigned by one in authority.
    • a reporter's assignment

2

duty

adjective

Definition of duty

1 :done as a duty
  • pay a duty call on her elderly aunt
2 :being on duty :assigned to specified tasks or functions
  • the duty officer

Recent Examples of duty from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'duty.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of duty

see 1duty


Financial Definition of DUTY

duty

What It Is

In the tax and import/export world, a duty (or customs duty) is money collected under a tariff.

How It Works

A duty is a federal tax on imports or exports. For example, Americans who travel abroad can bring back a certain number of dollars' worth of items without paying a duty. If the traveler brings back more than the allowed dollar amount worth of items, he or she must pay the tax (which varies according to the type of item, the type of travel, and other factors).

One of the best known tariff agreements is the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect on January 1, 1994. NAFTA required the elimination of duties on half of U.S. goods shipped to Mexico and the gradual phaseout of other tariffs among the U.S., Canada and Mexico over a 14-year period.

The World Trade Organization, which was created in 1995 and replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, is an international body that acts as a trade-dispute settlement organization and offers a forum to discuss new and existing trade rules and tariffs.

Why It Matters

Duties are used by governments to generate revenue or to protect domestic industries from competition. Duties can make it more expensive for Americans to purchase foreign goods, causing a decline in imports, a decline in the supply of the good, and a resulting increase in the price of the good. The price increase usually motivates domestic producers to increase their output of the product. Some economists argue that the resulting higher consumer prices, higher producer revenues and profits, and higher government revenues make duties a way to effectively transfer money from U.S. consumers to the U.S. Treasury. Some economists also argue that duties interfere with free market ideals by diverting resources to industries in which the U.S. is a less efficient, high-cost producer.



DUTY Defined for English Language Learners

duty

noun

Definition of duty for English Language Learners

  • : something that is done as part of a job

  • : something that you must do because it is morally right or because the law requires it

  • : active military service


DUTY Defined for Kids

duty

noun du·ty \ ˈdü-tē , ˈdyü- \

Definition of duty for Students

plural duties
1 :something a person feels he or she ought to do because it is morally right
  • Dad says it's his duty to take care of Grandma.
2 :something a person is required to do by law
  • jury duty
3 :an action done as part of a job or position
  • a principal's duties
4 :the time during which a person must do his or her job
  • The police officer was on duty.
5 :active military service
  • He returned from duty overseas.
6 :a tax especially on imports into a country

Law Dictionary

duty

noun du·ty

legal Definition of duty

plural duties
1 :tasks, service, or functions that arise from one's position
  • performing a police officer's duties
; also :a period of being on duty — see also jury duty
2 :an obligation assumed (as by contract) or imposed by law to conduct oneself in conformance with a certain standard or to act in a particular way
  • duty of good faith
  • a duty to warn of danger
— see also public duty doctrine, special duty doctrine
duty of candor \-ˈkan-dər\
:a duty obligating directors of a corporation to disclose all material facts known to them about a transaction when they are seeking shareholder approval
duty of care
:a duty to use due care toward others in order to protect them from unnecessary risk of harm
duty of fair representation
:a duty obligating a labor union to represent the employees in its collective bargaining unit fairly and in good faith
duty of loyalty
:a duty obligating directors of a corporation to refrain from using their positions to further their own interests rather than the interests of the shareholders (as by self-dealing or fraud)
fiduciary duty
:a duty obligating a fiduciary (as an agent or trustee) to act with loyalty and honesty and in a manner consistent with the best interests of the beneficiary of the fiduciary relationship (as a principal or trust beneficiary)
3 :tax; especially :a tax on imports
off duty
:not engaged in a duty
  • a police officer who is off duty
on duty
:engaged in a duty

Origin and Etymology of duty

Anglo-French deuté indebtedness, obligation, from deu owing, due, from Old French — see due



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