legal or moral requirement to take a certain course of action

An obligation is a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal or moral.


  • Noblesse oblige. There are obligations to nobility.
    • Comte de Laborde, in a notice to the French Historical Society in 1865, attributes the phrase to Duc de Levis, who used it in 1808, apropos of the establishment of the nobility.
  • Freely have you received, freely must you give. Tho the state does not, nor ever can, adequately pay you for your best services, still you must not falter. You must continue to live up to your own high ideals of your noble profession. The very acceptance of such positions in such an institution carries with it the obligation of performance—Noblesse Oblige! p. 170
    • A. J. Ladd, On the Firing Line in Education (1919)

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert's Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • It is not the profession of religion which creates the obligation for the performance of duty; for that existed before any such profession was made. The profession of religion only recognises the obligation.
  • The moment you can make a very simple discovery; viz., that obligation to God is your privilege, and is not imposed as a burden, your experience will teach you many things.
  • In the sacred fact of obligation you touch the immutable, and lay hold, as it were, on the eternities. At the very centre of your being, there is a fixed element, and that of a kind or degree essentially sovereign. A standard is set up in your very thought, by which a great part of your questions are determined, and about which your otherwise random thoughts may settle into order and law.
  • Measure obligation by inherent ability! No, my brethren, Christian obligation has a very different measure. It is measured by the power that God will give us, measured by the gifts and possible increments of faith. And what a reckoning will it be for many of us, when Christ summons us to answer before Him under the law, not for what we are, but for what we might have been.
  • Christian obligation cannot be made to accord with a law of expediency. The Christian's maxims are, "Do right because you are bound to do right." "Do right though the heavens fall." There is a world of difference between "You had better" and "You are bound to."
  • The most fruitful and elevating influence I have ever seemed to meet has been my impression of obligation to God.

See also

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