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From Middle English obligacioun, from Old French obligacion, from Latin obligatio, obligationem, from obligatum (past participle of obligare), from ob- (to) + ligare (to bind), from Proto-Indo-European *leig- (to bind).


  • (US) IPA(key): /ɑb.ləˈɡeɪ.ʃən/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪʃən


obligation (countable and uncountable, plural obligations)

  1. The act of binding oneself by a social, legal, or moral tie to someone.
  2. A social, legal, or moral requirement, duty, contract, or promise that compels someone to follow or avoid a particular course of action.
  3. A course of action imposed by society, law, or conscience by which someone is bound or restricted.
  4. (law) A legal agreement stipulating a specified payment or action; the document containing such agreement.
    X shall be entitled to subcontract its obligation to provide the Support Services. <<from an agreement>>
    • 1668 December 19, James Dalrymple, “Mr. Alexander Seaton contra Menzies” in The Deciſions of the Lords of Council & Seſſion I (Edinburgh, 1683), page 575
      The Pupil after his Pupillarity, had granted a Diſcharge to one of the Co-tutors, which did extinguiſh the whole Debt of that Co-tutor, and conſequently of all the reſt, they being all correi debendi, lyable by one individual Obligation, which cannot be Diſcharged as to one, and ſtand as to all the reſt.

Usage notesEdit

  • Adjectives often used with "obligation": moral, legal, social, contractual, political, mutual, military, perpetual, etc.


  • (the act of binding oneself by a social, legal, or moral tie to someone): commitment
  • (requirement, duty, contract or promise): duty


  • (requirement, duty, contract or promise): right

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.



Borrowed from Latin obligatio, obligationem, from the verb obligō (tie together).



obligation f (plural obligations)

  1. obligation

Related termsEdit

Further readingEdit

Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of obligacioun