Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
August 21st, 2015
Episode 295 of 688 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 21, 2015 is: beholden \bih-HOHL-dun\ adjective : being under obligation for a favor or gift : indebted Examples: "I am thankful for myself, at any rate, that I can find my tiny way through the world, without being beholden to anyone." Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1850 "Such voices would indicate that we are a nation of independent thinkers, inspired by the grand principles of the Revolution that created the modern political system, not beholden to narrow partisan interests or affiliations." Anouar Majid, The Portland (Maine) Press Herald, July 5, 2015 Did you know? Have you ever found yourself under obligation to someone else for a gift or favor? It's a common experience, and, not surprisingly, many of the words describing this condition have been part of the English language for centuries. Beholden was first recorded in writing in the 14th century poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." Indebted, which entered English through Anglo-French, is even older, first appearing in the 13th century. English speakers in the 14th century would also have had another synonym of beholden to choose from: bounden. That word, though obscure, is still in use with the meaning "made obligatory" or "binding" (as in "our bounden duty"), but its "beholden" sense is now obsolete.