1 : to constrain by physical, moral, or legal force or by the exigencies of circumstance
2 a : to earn the gratitude of
b : to do a favor for or do something as a favor
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."
"The state's highest court Monday ruled that Long Island guitar-string maker D'Addario & Co. is not obliged to pay $227,000 in interest for reneging on a 2006 real estate deal." - From an article by Joe Ryan in Newsday (Long Island, New York), November 19, 2012
"He was already in Nashville and had left his warm jacket in Jackson. He asked if I could bring it to the airport, since we were on the same flight. I obliged, delivered the jacket and began a friendship that I treasure." - From an article by Dan Morris in the Jackson Sun (Tennessee), March 15, 2014
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
Which of the following words is a relative of "oblige": "bilge," "garret," or "ligament"? The answer is …
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