Definition of devoir in English:



  • A person's duty.

    ‘you have done your devoir right well’
    • ‘The hedge was laid by a veteran Yorkshireman, and the lord of the manor's bailiff was present to see the devoir properly carried out.’
    • ‘For yet another year, indigenous performance arts showed incredibly minimal growth, with creativity seemingly dedicating itself to the devoir of producing perplexity rather than refinement.’
    duty, commitment, responsibility, moral imperative
    View synonyms


  • pay one's devoirs

    • archaic Pay one's respects formally.

      ‘I paid my devoirs to both’
      • ‘I wish you a good morning, and will pay my devoirs in a day or two to inquire after your health, and hear what has taken place.’
      • ‘Hereby allow me to pay our devoirs to you in behalf of all the staff of our company.’
      • ‘Very warily has ‘my lord’ to pay his devoirs, for any unnecessary bashfulness on his part but precipitates his fate, which is, alas, to be eaten up.’
      • ‘Let not the traveller omit to pay his devoirs to the liquid ‘manna of Montepulciano,’ the monarch of Tuscan, if not of all other wines, as Bacchus and Redi have pronounced it.’
      • ‘But since it is well for a squire to have some one to whom to pay his devoirs, and since, also, thou needest a proper squire, I tell thee, Faith, that thou shalt be my lady, and in all things will I be thy faithful squire.’


Middle English: from Old French deveir, from Latin debere ‘owe’. The spelling, and subsequently the pronunciation, was changed under the influence of modern French devoir.