synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples & translations of obligation in English

English Online Dictionary. What means obligation‎? What does obligation mean?



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 *leyǵ- (to bind).


  • (US) IPA(key): /ɑb.ləˈɡeɪ.ʃən/
  • 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 action or forbearance by a party to the agreement; the document containing such 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 notes

  • 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 terms




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



obligation f (plural obligations)

  1. obligation

Derived terms

  • obligation scolaire

Related terms

  • obliger

Further reading

  • “obligation” in Trésor de la langue française informatisé (The Digitized Treasury of the French Language).

Middle English



  1. Alternative form of obligacioun

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This article based on an article on Wiktionary. The list of authors can be seen in the page history there. The original work has been modified. This article is distributed under the terms of this license.