from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An act or a course of action that is required of one by position, social custom, law, or religion.
  • noun Required action or service: synonym: function.
  • noun Active military service.
  • noun Moral or legal obligation.
  • noun The compulsion felt to meet such obligation.
  • noun A tax charged by a government, especially on imports.
  • noun The application of something for a purpose; use.
  • noun A measure of efficiency expressed as the amount of work done per unit of energy used.
  • noun The total volume of water required to irrigate a given area in order to cultivate a specific crop until harvest.
  • idiom (duty bound) Obliged.
  • idiom (off duty) Not engaged in or responsible for assigned work.
  • idiom (on duty) Engaged in or responsible for assigned work.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Obligatory service; that which ought to be done; that which one is bound by natural, moral, or legal obligation to do or perform.
  • noun The obligation to do something; the binding or obligatory force of that which is morally right: as, when duty calls, one must obey.
  • noun Due obedience; submission; compliant or obedient service.
  • noun A feeling of obligation, or an act manifesting such feeling; an expression of submissive deference or respectful consideration.
  • noun Any requisite procedure, service, business, or office; that which one ought to do; particularly, any stated service or function: as, the duties of one's station in life; to go or be on duty; the regiment did duty in Flanders.
  • noun In mech., the number of foot-pounds of work done per bushel or per hundredweight of fuel consumed: as, the duty of a steam-engine.
  • noun That which is due; an obligation; compensation; dues.
  • noun A tax or impost; excise or customs dues; the sum of money levied by a government upon certain articles, specifically on articles imported or exported: as, the stamp duty of Great Britain; the legacy duty; the duties on sugar; ad valorem and specific duties.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Obs. as signifying a material thing. That which is due; payment.
  • noun That which a person is bound by moral obligation to do, or refrain from doing; that which one ought to do; service morally obligatory.
  • noun Hence, any assigned service or business
  • noun Specifically, obedience or submission due to parents and superiors.
  • noun Respect; reverence; regard; act of respect; homage.
  • noun (Engin.) The efficiency of an engine, especially a steam pumping engine, as measured by work done by a certain quantity of fuel; usually, the number of pounds of water lifted one foot by one bushel of coal (94 lbs. old standard), or by 1 cwt. (112 lbs., England, or 100 lbs., United States).
  • noun (Com.) Tax, toll, impost, or customs; excise; any sum of money required by government to be paid on the importation, exportation, or consumption of goods.
  • noun a duty which is graded according to the cost, or market value, of the article taxed. See Ad valorem.
  • noun a duty of a specific sum assessed on an article without reference to its value or market.
  • noun actually engaged in the performance of one's assigned task.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun That which one is morally or legally obligated to do.
  • noun A period of time spent at work or doing a particular task.
  • noun describing a workload as to its idle, working and de-energized periods.
  • noun A tax placed on imports or exports; a tariff.
  • noun obsolete One's due, something one is owed; a debt or fee.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a government tax on imports or exports
  • noun the social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force
  • noun work that you are obliged to perform for moral or legal reasons


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English duete, from Anglo-Norman, from due, variant of Old French deu, due; see due.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English duete, from Old French deu ("due"), past participle of devoir ("to owe"), from Latin debere ("to owe"), from de ("from") + habere ("to have").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word duty.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.