[ uh-blahyj ]
/ əˈblaɪdʒ /
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See synonyms for: oblige / obliged / obliging on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object), o·bliged, o·blig·ing.

to require or constrain, as by law, command, conscience, or force of necessity.
to bind morally or legally, as by a promise or contract.
to place under a debt of gratitude for some benefit, favor, or service: I'm much obliged for the ride.
to put (one) in a debt of gratitude, as by a favor or accommodation: Mr. Weems will oblige us with a song.
to make (an action, policy, etc.) necessary or obligatory: Your carelessness obliges firmness on my part.

verb (used without object), o·bliged, o·blig·ing.

to be kindly accommodating: I'll do anything within reason to oblige.



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Origin of oblige

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English obligen, from Old French obligier, from Latin obligāre “to bind”; see obligate

synonym study for oblige

4. Oblige, accommodate imply making a gracious and welcome gesture of some kind. Oblige emphasizes the idea of conferring a favor or benefit (and often of taking some trouble to do it): to oblige someone with a loan. Accommodate emphasizes doing a service or furnishing a convenience: to accommodate someone with lodgings and meals.


o·blig·er, nounpre·o·blige, verb (used with object), pre·o·bliged, pre·o·blig·ing.re·o·blige, verb (used with object), re·o·bliged, re·o·blig·ing.


1. coerce, compel, constrain, force, oblige 2. obligate, oblige
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does oblige mean?

Oblige commonly means to politely do something for someone, as in He’s the kind of person who’s happy to oblige no matter what the request is.

Someone who is accommodating in this way can be described as obliging.

This sense of the word is sometimes used in a somewhat ironic way that likens a negative reaction to a polite one, as in He rudely told me to step aside and let him pass, and I was happy to oblige since I was standing in front of a huge mud puddle.

Oblige also commonly means to require, compel, or constrain. This can imply a moral sense of duty or one based on conscience, as in It is her sense of duty that obliges her to make this sacrifice. Or it can imply an official or legal requirement, as in The contract obliges us to perform three nights a week.

This sense of oblige is perhaps most often used in passive constructions, as in By contract, we are obliged to perform three nights a week.

The similar verb obligate can be used to mean the same thing. The related noun obligation refers to a responsibility or duty that is required of someone. In other words, an obligation is something you are obliged or obligated to do. Something that’s required in such a way can be described with the related adjective obligatory.

Sometimes, oblige means to put one in a debt of gratitude, such as for some favor or service. This sense of the word is especially used in the phrase much obliged, which can be used by itself as another way of saying thank you or in a sentence, as in We’re much obliged for all your hospitality.

Example: There is no requirement that obliges us to help those who are less fortunate—but we should do it out of a moral obligation.

Where does oblige come from?

The first records of the word oblige come from the 1200s. It ultimately comes from the Latin verb obligāre, meaning “to bind.”

When we feel that we are obliged to do something, we feel that we have been bound by some duty or requirement. When oblige means “to accommodate,” it often implies that doing so will require some amount of effort by or trouble for the person doing the obliging—for which the recipient of the favor should be much obliged.

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What are some other forms related to oblige?

  • obliging (continuous tense verb, adjective)
  • obliged (past tense verb, adjective)

What are some synonyms for oblige?

What are some words that share a root or word element with oblige? 

What are some words that often get used in discussing oblige?

How is oblige used in real life?

Oblige can sound quite formal, especially compared to synonyms like require.


Try using oblige!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of oblige?

A. require
B. compel
C. deny
D. accommodate

Example sentences from the Web for oblige

British Dictionary definitions for oblige

/ (əˈblaɪdʒ) /


(tr; often passive) to bind or constrain (someone to do something) by legal, moral, or physical means
(tr; usually passive) to make indebted or grateful (to someone) by doing a favour or servicewe are obliged to you for dinner
to do a service or favour to (someone)she obliged the guest with a song

Derived forms of oblige

obliger, noun

Word Origin for oblige

C13: from Old French obliger, from Latin obligāre, from ob- to, towards + ligāre to bind
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