Dictionary > English Dictionary > Definition, synonym and antonym of duty
Meaning of duty by Wiktionary Dictionary



    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” ) .


    • ( UK ) IPA: /ˈdjuːti/
    • ( US ) IPA: /duːɾi/
    • Rhymes: -uːti


    duty ( plural: duties )

    1. That which one is morally or legally obligated to do .
      England expects that every man will do his duty. ( Nelson )
      We don't have a duty to keep you here .
    2. A period of time spent at work or doing a particular task .
      I’m on duty from 6 pm to 6 am .
    3. describing a workload as to its idle, working and de-energized periods .
    4. A tax placed on imports or exports; a tariff .
    5. ( obsolete ) One's due, something one is owed; a debt or fee.

    Usage notes

    • Adjectives often used with "duty": public, private, moral, legal, social, double, civic, contractual, political, judicial, etc .



    Related terms


    External links

    • duty in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
    • duty in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911
    • duty at OneLook Dictionary Search

Explanation of duty by Wordnet Dictionary


    1. work that you are obliged to perform for moral or legal reasons

    2. the duties of the job
    3. the social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force

    4. we must instill a sense of duty in our children
      every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty- John D.Rockefeller Jr
    5. a government tax on imports or exports

    6. they signed a treaty to lower duties on trade between their countries

    Definition of duty by GCIDE Dictionary


    1. Duty n.; pl. Duties [From Due.]
      1. That which is due; payment. [Obs. as signifying a material thing.]

      When thou receivest money for thy labor or ware, thou receivest thy duty. Tyndale.

      2. That which a person is bound by moral obligation to do, or refrain from doing; that which one ought to do; service morally obligatory.

      Forgetting his duty toward God, his sovereign lord, and his country. Hallam.

      3. Hence, any assigned service or business; as, “the duties of a policeman, or a soldier; to be on duty.”

      With records sweet of duties done. Keble.

      To employ him on the hardest and most imperative duty. Hallam.

      Duty is a graver term than obligation. A duty hardly exists to do trivial things; but there may be an obligation to do them. C. J. Smith.

      4. Specifically, obedience or submission due to parents and superiors. Shak.

      5. Respect; reverence; regard; act of respect; homage. “My duty to you.” Shak.

      6. ( 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 ).

      7. ( 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.

      ☞ An impost on land or other real estate, and on the stock of farmers, is not called a duty, but a direct tax. [U.S.]

      Ad valorem duty, a duty which is graded according to the cost, or market value, of the article taxed. See Ad valorem. -- Specific duty, a duty of a specific sum assessed on an article without reference to its value or market. -- On duty, actually engaged in the performance of one's assigned task.