Definition of obligate in English:



  • 1[with 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’
    • ‘Each member is obligated to contribute 2.5 percent of his salary or monthly income to the association.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘When I disagree with you, I am not obligated to then repeat your response word for word out loud for all to hear.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘To what extent should people be obligated to detail these potential shortcomings/differences in a social setting?’
    • ‘The Catholic faith I am part of obligates me to have moral courage.’
    • ‘I am obligated to give you the correct answers so that they can see that we are talking sense.’
    • ‘After completing their training, all medical workers are obligated to put in several years at a state medical facility.’
    • ‘I had dinner cooked for me last night so I am now obligated to make pikelets for breakfast.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Many times this requires an interpreter, for whom the physician is obligated to pay.’
    • ‘However, Kant claims that the moral law obligates us to consider the final purpose or aim of all moral action.’
    • ‘You're not obligated to eat you mother's bean salad if you're not there.’
    • ‘There is no law that can obligate a person to undergo medical treatment in order to save the life of another person.’
    • ‘I often wonder where such people acquire the notion their freedom of speech obligates me to read, let alone publish, their ideas.’
    • ‘Purdha obligates Muslim women not reveal their body form so that the shape of the body remains unseen.’
    • ‘The preposition with the verb shows that the meaning of ‘binding and obligating someone’ is implied here.’
    • ‘We have a number of things that we're obligated to do because of funding agreements.’
    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.’
    • ‘Sellers are obligated to disclose significant property defects of which they are aware.’
    • ‘This means that funds have to be obligated against contractual agreements within a limited amount of time.’


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

    ‘an obligate intracellular parasite’
    Often contrasted with facultative
    • ‘Taken together, our analysis provides strong evidence for a reductive mode of evolution in obligate intracellular parasites with high rates of DNA loss.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Chlamydia are obligate intracellular parasites that are present in 2 forms.’
    • ‘The human stage amastigote is an obligate intracellular parasite, spherical, 2 to 5 g in diameter, and displays a nucleus and kinetoplast.’
    • ‘Microsporidia are a monophyletic assemblage of obligate intracellular parasites that generally infect animals (particularly arthropods and fish).’


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.