Word of the Day : June 6, 2015

noblesse oblige

play
noun noh-BLESS-uh-BLEEZH

Definition

: the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth

Did You Know?

In French, noblesse oblige means literally "nobility obligates." French speakers transformed the phrase into a noun, which English speakers picked up in the 19th century. Then, as now, noblesse oblige referred to the unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others. Later, by extension, it also came to refer to the obligation of anyone who is in a better position than others-due, for example, to high office or celebrity-to act respectably and responsibly toward others.


Examples

"And true to those sentiments of noblesse oblige, in 1957 the Seiberling family turned the property over to a nonprofit trust." - Steve Stephens, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, April 24, 2011

"When Alexis de Tocqueville visited our new nation in the 19th century, he observed that the average American possesses a curious spirit of initiative. When we see a problem or a need, rather than waiting onnoblesse obligefrom an aristocrat to rescue us, we do something about it ourselves." - David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), April 11, 2015



Test Your Vocabulary

Fill in the blanks to create a word that describes someone having a generous and kind nature: _ _ gn _ _ imo _ _. The answer is …


Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!