to place under a debt of gratitude for some benefit, favor, or service: I'm much obliged for the ride.

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to put (one) in a debt of gratitude, as by a favor or accommodation: Mr. Weems will oblige us with a song.
to make (an action, policy, etc.) necessary or obligatory: Your carelessness obliges firmness on my part.
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First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English obligen, from Old French obligier, from Latin obligāre “to bind”; see obligate
4. Oblige, accommodate imply making a gracious and welcome gesture of some kind. Oblige emphasizes the idea of conferring a favor or benefit (and often of taking some trouble to do it): to oblige someone with a loan. Accommodate emphasizes doing a service or furnishing a convenience: to accommodate someone with lodgings and meals.

OTHER WORDS FROM oblige

o·blig·er, nounpre·o·blige, verb (used with object), pre·o·bliged, pre·o·blig·ing.re·o·blige, verb (used with object), re·o·bliged, re·o·blig·ing.

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH oblige

1. coerce, compel, constrain, force, oblige 2. obligate, oblige
obligational, obligational authority, obligative, obligato, obligatory, oblige, obliged, obligee, obligement, obliging, obligor

Oblige commonly means to politely do something for someone, as in He’s the kind of person who’s happy to oblige no matter what the request is.

Someone who is accommodating in this way can be described as obliging.

This sense of the word is sometimes used in a somewhat ironic way that likens a negative reaction to a polite one, as in He rudely told me to step aside and let him pass, and I was happy to oblige since I was standing in front of a huge mud puddle.

Oblige also commonly means to require, compel, or constrain. This can imply a moral sense of duty or one based on conscience, as in It is her sense of duty that obliges her to make this sacrifice. Or it can imply an official or legal requirement, as in The contract obliges us to perform three nights a week.

This sense of oblige is perhaps most often used in passive constructions, as in By contract, we are obliged to perform three nights a week.

The similar verb obligate can be used to mean the same thing. The related noun obligation refers to a responsibility or duty that is required of someone. In other words, an obligation is something you are obliged or obligated to do. Something that’s required in such a way can be described with the related adjective obligatory.

Sometimes, oblige means to put one in a debt of gratitude, such as for some favor or service. This sense of the word is especially used in the phrase much obliged, which can be used by itself as another way of saying thank you or in a sentence, as in We’re much obliged for all your hospitality.

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Example: There is no requirement that obliges us to help those who are less fortunate—but we should do it out of a moral obligation.