Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Oblige

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is oblige. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Oblige is usually used to mean “to do a favor for someone,” or “to do something as a favor, or as though it is a favor.” In more technical use, it means “to force or require someone to do something.”

// They needed help organizing the event, and I was happy to oblige.

// The law obliges the government to make this information public.

OBLIGE in Context

Fiduciaries are obliged to do what’s in your best interest, even if it means they make less money.” — Paul Katzeff, Investor’s Business Daily, 13 May 2022

Did You Know?

If you are obliged by a rule or law you are metaphorically bound by it—that is, you are required to obey it. The idea of binding links the word to its Latin source, ligāre, meaning “to fasten, bind.” In the most common modern uses of oblige, though, the idea of binding is somewhat masked: it is applied when someone is bound by a debt for some favor or service, as in “We’re much obliged to you for the help,” but in the phrase “happy to oblige” it simply expresses a willingness to do someone a favor, as in “They needed a ride and we were happy to oblige.”

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