View synonyms for obligation


[ ob-li-gey-shuhn ]


  1. something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law, etc.

    Synonyms: responsibility

  2. something that is done or is to be done for such reasons:

    to fulfill one's obligations.

  3. a binding promise, contract, sense of duty, etc.
  4. the act of binding or obliging oneself by a promise, contract, etc.
  5. Law.
    1. an agreement enforceable by law, originally applied to promises under seal.
    2. a document containing such an agreement.
    3. a bond containing a penalty, with a condition annexed for payment of money, performance of covenants, etc.

    Synonyms: covenant, contract

  6. any bond, note, bill, certificate, or the like, as of a government or a corporation, serving as evidence of indebtedness.
  7. an indebtedness or amount of indebtedness.
  8. a favor, service, or benefit for which gratitude is due.
  9. a debt of gratitude:

    He felt an obligation to his teacher.

  10. the state of being under a debt, as of gratitude, for a favor, service, or benefit.


/ ˌɒblɪˈɡeɪʃən /


  1. a moral or legal requirement; duty
  2. the act of obligating or the state of being obligated
  3. law a legally enforceable agreement to perform some act, esp to pay money, for the benefit of another party
  4. law
    1. a written contract containing a penalty
    2. an instrument acknowledging indebtedness to secure the repayment of money borrowed
  5. a person or thing to which one is bound morally or legally
  6. something owed in return for a service or favour
  7. a service or favour for which one is indebted

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Derived Forms

  • ˌobliˈgational, adjective

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Other Words From

  • preob·li·gation noun
  • reob·li·gation noun
  • super·obli·gation noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of obligation1

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English obligacioun, from Old French obligation, from Latin obligātiōn-, stem of obligātiō “bond, engagement, pledge,” from obligāt(us) “bound” (past participle of obligāre; obligate ) + -iō -ion

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Synonym Study

See duty.

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Example Sentences

Although corporations can opt in to become a PBC, there is no obligation on them to do so and they need the support of their shareholders.

From Fortune

Right now, 71 percent of all non-agricultural part-time workers fit the latter category, and one of the biggest noneconomic reasons that people look for or accept part-time work is child care obligations.

Each of us has an obligation to befriend people who are different from us and invite them into our homes.

From Fortune

Earlier in lockdown, when people were always available — because life outside the home was essentially banned — there were new, complicated obligations to be virtually present.

From Digiday

By spreading out the payments over many years, he could keep his tax obligations low.

Obviously, the first obligation of all liberal democratic governments is to enforce the rule of law.

It is the obligation of citizens and journalists as well as governments.

“It is our Islamic obligation to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and give it our Islamic fealty,” he said.

Even the best of us can hurt the people who come to us for care when we forget that our foremost obligation is to them.

This government obligation is limited by practical considerations of safety and security.

There is an implied obligation on the hirer's part to use the car only for the purpose and in the manner for which it was hired.

With this political subjection one is reluctant to associate a more sordid kind of obligation.

The swearing of an oath always brings under obligation to God, and therefore always includes the making of a vow.

If he carries these gratuitously his obligation is still less, nevertheless he must even then take some care of them.

Sometimes a moral obligation to pay money is a good consideration for a promising to pay it.