[ doo-tee, dyoo- ]
See synonyms for: dutyduties on Thesaurus.com

noun,plural du·ties.
  1. something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation.

  2. the binding or obligatory force of something that is morally or legally right; moral or legal obligation.

  1. an action or task required by a person's position or occupation; function: the duties of a clergyman.

  2. the respectful and obedient conduct due a parent, superior, elder, etc.

  3. an act or expression of respect.

  4. a task or chore that a person is expected to perform: It's your duty to do the dishes.

  5. Military.

    • an assigned task, occupation, or place of service: He was on radar duty for two years.

    • the military service required of a citizen by a country: After graduation, he began his duty.

  6. Commerce. a specific or ad valorem tax imposed by law on the import or export of goods.

  7. a payment, service, etc., imposed and enforceable by law or custom.

  8. Chiefly British. tax: income duty.

  9. Machinery.

    • the amount of work done by an engine per unit amount of fuel consumed.

    • the measure of effectiveness of any machine.

  10. Agriculture. the amount of water necessary to provide for the crop in a given area.

  11. Baby Talk. bowel movement.

Idioms about duty

  1. do duty, to serve the same function; substitute for: bookcases that do duty as room dividers.

  2. off duty, not at one's post or work; at liberty: They spent their days off duty in hiking and fishing.

  1. on duty, at one's post or work; occupied; engaged: He was suspended from the force for being drunk while on duty.

Origin of duty

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English du(e)te, from Anglo-French duete; see due, -ty2

synonym study For duty

1. Duty, obligation refer to what one feels bound to do. Duty is what one performs, or avoids doing, in fulfillment of the permanent dictates of conscience, piety, right, or law: duty to one's country; one's duty to tell the truth, to raise children properly. An obligation is what one is bound to do to fulfill the dictates of usage, custom, or propriety, and to carry out a particular, specific, and often personal promise or agreement: financial obligations.

Other words for duty

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use duty in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for duty


/ (ˈdjuːtɪ) /

nounplural -ties
  1. a task or action that a person is bound to perform for moral or legal reasons

  2. respect or obedience due to a superior, older persons, etc: filial duty

  1. the force that binds one morally or legally to one's obligations

  2. a government tax, esp on imports

  3. British

    • the quantity or intensity of work for which a machine is designed

    • a measure of the efficiency of a machine

  4. the quantity of water necessary to irrigate an area of land to grow a particular crop

    • a job or service allocated

    • (as modifier): duty rota

  5. do duty for to act as a substitute for

  6. off duty not at work

  7. on duty at work

Origin of duty

C13: from Anglo-French dueté, from Old French deu due

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for duty


A tax charged by a government, especially on an import.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with duty


In addition to the idiom beginning with duty

  • duty bound

also see:

  • above and beyond (the call of duty)
  • active duty

do one's dutydouble dutyoff dutyon duty.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.