Definition of obligate in English:



  • 1with object and infinitive Require or compel (someone) to undertake a legal or moral duty.

    ‘the medical establishment is obligated to take action in the best interest of the public’
    • ‘Purdha obligates Muslim women not reveal their body form so that the shape of the body remains unseen.’
    • ‘Each member is obligated to contribute 2.5 percent of his salary or monthly income to the association.’
    • ‘I had dinner cooked for me last night so I am now obligated to make pikelets for breakfast.’
    • ‘After completing their training, all medical workers are obligated to put in several years at a state medical facility.’
    • ‘When I disagree with you, I am not obligated to then repeat your response word for word out loud for all to hear.’
    • ‘You're not obligated to eat you mother's bean salad if you're not there.’
    • ‘I often wonder where such people acquire the notion their freedom of speech obligates me to read, let alone publish, their ideas.’
    • ‘Many times this requires an interpreter, for whom the physician is obligated to pay.’
    • ‘There is no law that can obligate a person to undergo medical treatment in order to save the life of another person.’
    • ‘But the Court has not clearly decided whether a state law may obligate people (pedestrians or passengers, and not just drivers) to present identification once they are lawfully stopped.’
    • ‘The preposition with the verb shows that the meaning of ‘binding and obligating someone’ is implied here.’
    • ‘However, Kant claims that the moral law obligates us to consider the final purpose or aim of all moral action.’
    • ‘To what extent should people be obligated to detail these potential shortcomings/differences in a social setting?’
    • ‘What is it about this particular ceremony that obligates people to travel vast distances, buy expensive casserole dishes, wear unnaturally tidy clothes, and take stupid numbers of photographs?’
    • ‘We have a number of things that we're obligated to do because of funding agreements.’
    • ‘Senegal's 1973 family code obligates grooms to register their intentions at the time of the first marriage - opting for monogamy, limited polygamy with two wives, or full polygamy.’
    • ‘I am obligated to give you the correct answers so that they can see that we are talking sense.’
    • ‘One is a world where people are obligated to have many children in order to increase total happiness.’
    • ‘So we ask, do I get a discount from you guys then because you are not delivering what you are contractually obligated to do?’
    • ‘The Catholic faith I am part of obligates me to have moral courage.’
    require, compel, bind, make, constrain, force, put under an obligation, leave someone no option, impel, coerce, pressure, pressurize
    View synonyms
  • 2US with object Commit (assets) as security.

    ‘the money must be obligated within 30 days’
    • ‘As agents of investors, managers are obligated to maximize the interests of the owners or principals.’
    • ‘This means that funds have to be obligated against contractual agreements within a limited amount of time.’
    • ‘Sellers are obligated to disclose significant property defects of which they are aware.’


  • attributive Restricted to a particular function or mode of life.

    ‘an obligate intracellular parasite’
    Often contrasted with facultative
    • ‘Microsporidia are obligate intracellular parasites that were thought to be an ancient eukaryotic lineage based on molecular phylogenies using ribosomal RNA and translation elongation factors.’
    • ‘The human stage amastigote is an obligate intracellular parasite, spherical, 2 to 5 g in diameter, and displays a nucleus and kinetoplast.’
    • ‘Chlamydia are obligate intracellular parasites that are present in 2 forms.’
    • ‘Microsporidia are a monophyletic assemblage of obligate intracellular parasites that generally infect animals (particularly arthropods and fish).’
    • ‘Taken together, our analysis provides strong evidence for a reductive mode of evolution in obligate intracellular parasites with high rates of DNA loss.’


Late Middle English (as an adjective in the sense ‘bound by law’): from Latin obligatus, past participle of obligare (see oblige). The current adjectival use dates from the late 19th century.