Definition of oblige in English:



  • 1 Make (someone) legally or morally bound to do something:

    ‘doctors are obliged by law to keep patients alive while there is a chance of recovery’
    • ‘His hands were completely tied on this one, and those who now criticise him for doing what he was legally obliged to do are being unfair in the extreme to him.’
    • ‘Under the new law, parents are obliged to register their new born babies within 60 days of their birth.’
    • ‘‘I was brought up thinking work is something you are morally obliged to do,’ as one older man put it.’
    • ‘The children just happened to be the beneficiaries of that exercise that she was legally obliged to provide because she was the mother.’
    • ‘A wife is legally obliged to obey her husband, reside where he wishes, and accept his surname.’
    • ‘Women are also obliged to do military service, but are not required to serve in combat units.’
    • ‘We are obliged to counsel for their assistance in this matter.’
    • ‘In that way it was seen that the medical expenses incurred by the father could also be recovered if the father was legally obliged to pay them.’
    • ‘Doctors and nurses were obliged to attend to patients so they could not be blamed for admitting the patients.’
    • ‘The council will launch its annual registration drive at the end of August, and people are legally obliged to respond.’
    • ‘The principal drawback of a limited company is that you are legally obliged to file specific information in the Companies Office.’
    • ‘Under the law, we were obliged to publish the paper within three months, failing which the permission would lapse.’
    • ‘British law obliges a parent, once his child is registered at a school, to ensure that he attends regularly; any white parent who kept his child away for so long would undoubtedly be prosecuted and punished.’
    • ‘The Dudleian lecturers insisted that natural religion pointed to a moral law that men were obliged to follow.’
    • ‘This September, I am legally obliged to renew my driver's licence.’
    • ‘If the law obliges us to pay our taxes, do the news and the weather, then we will.’
    • ‘The reason for this exemption, according to the reasoning of the bill, is the lack of an international standard and practice obliging such persons to report suspicious operations and transactions.’
    • ‘Christian leaders are obliged to protect their citizens, by military force if need be.’
    • ‘We live in a world in which there are many moral laws that people are obliged to conform to.’
    • ‘Mr Butterfield was not a blood relative of Lady Hulton, and was not a person for whom she or any other members of the Reynolds' family was morally obliged to provide.’
    • ‘No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God.’
    require, compel, bind, make, constrain, obligate, force, put under an obligation, leave someone no option, impel, coerce, pressure, pressurize
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    1. 1.1[with object] Do as (someone) asks or desires in order to help or please them:
      ‘oblige me by not being sorry for yourself’
      [no object] ‘tell me what you want to know and I'll see if I can oblige’
      • ‘You can mix and match, and the head waiter will be only too pleased to oblige with special offerings, if you ask the day before, at no extra charge.’
      • ‘Compilers of match programmes will confirm that as soon as they pick an all-action shot of a striker in full flight he will duly oblige by picking up a groin strain 48 hours before the kick off.’
      • ‘The Romanians were happy to tackle all day and the Scots appeared happy to oblige by running at them for the full 80 minutes.’
      • ‘Photos of interest would be most welcome so if you can oblige please do.’
      • ‘Certain gestures could also serve as distress signals, obliging fellow Masons to come to the aid of a ‘Brother.’’
      • ‘Dressed in all black and sporting a new look for his next film with Shankar, the actor was his usual calm self, meeting industry colleagues, giving quick television bytes and obliging fans with autographs.’
      • ‘He waits for this to sink in, and I oblige by widening my eyes and licking my chapped lips.’
      • ‘Sensing that the umpire didn't share his wicked sense of humour, Gibbs obliged but put his jumper on inside out, hiding his number.’
      • ‘To return to my need: please, can someone oblige with practical advice?’
      • ‘‘If you wish to embrace me, Maria, you know I will be only too pleased to oblige you,’ replied James, his voice low and teasing.’
      • ‘I obliged lovingly, extremely pleased that the water dragon had come right away.’
      • ‘If you don't have a boat, or prefer to make use of local expertise, there are a number of hardboat skippers who will be only too pleased to oblige.’
      • ‘She had been obliged by his threats to seek accommodation elsewhere.’
      • ‘Nor would the Virgin Queen oblige by naming a successor, but left her ministers to do it in defiance of English laws and at some risk to themselves.’
      • ‘Naturally, her husband was very pleased and only too happy to oblige with the ‘work.’’
      • ‘Unfortunately, a lack of research funding and other assistance made it impossible to oblige him, but we had a lively conversation.’
      • ‘Please oblige by suggesting the proper food style, life style and other things to avoid further blocks.’
      • ‘And if there is no one to pass the umbrella on to, Mother Nature can always oblige by helping it fly off in that one strong gust of wind.’
      • ‘If someone would kindly oblige by printing a diary bearing the main York bus routes, we shall be delighted to buy some and send them to all our acquaintances in London.’
      • ‘They asked for Abel as a playmate and companion to begin with and Mr Davis was pleased to oblige.’
      do someone a favour, do someone a kindness, do someone a service, accommodate, indulge, gratify, gratify the wishes of, help, assist, serve, humour, meet the needs of, meet the wants of, put oneself out for
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    2. 1.2be obliged Be indebted or grateful:
      ‘if you can give me a few minutes of your time I'll be much obliged’
      • ‘If you or anyone else can help me to sort out the security issues I would be much obliged.’
      • ‘We are much obliged to all and promise always to do our best to embody human dreams about flying possibilities.’
      • ‘I shall be much obliged if you would give me an opportunity for an interview.’
      • ‘We fail to understand exactly where this humour lies, and would be much obliged if would care to enlighten us.’
      • ‘Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay.’
      • ‘Your Honour, I am obliged and I will return to that, if I may, when we look more closely at the subscription agreement.’
      thank you, thanks, many thanks, thanks a lot, thanks very much, thank you kindly
      cheers, thanks a million
      thankful, grateful, appreciative
      beholden, indebted, in someone's debt, under an obligation, obligated
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    3. 1.3archaic [with object] Bind (someone) by an oath, promise, or contract:
      ‘my father had obliged me to the improvement of my stock’


Middle English (in the sense ‘bind by oath’): from Old French obliger, from Latin obligare, from ob- towards + ligare to bind.