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.
June 6th, 2015
Episode 218 of 688 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 06, 2015 is: noblesse oblige \noh-BLESS-uh-BLEEZH\ noun : the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth Examples: "And true to those sentiments of noblesse oblige, in 1957 the Seiberling family turned the property over to a nonprofit trust." Steve Stephens, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, April 24, 2011 "When Alexis de Tocqueville visited our new nation in the 19th century, he observed that the average American possesses a curious spirit of initiative. When we see a problem or a need, rather than waiting onnoblesse obligefrom an aristocrat to rescue us, we do something about it ourselves." David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), April 11, 2015 Did you know? In French, noblesse oblige means literally "nobility obligates." French speakers transformed the phrase into a noun, which English speakers picked up in the 19th century. Then, as now, noblesse oblige referred to the unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others. Later, by extension, it also came to refer to the obligation of anyone who is in a better position than othersdue, for example, to high office or celebrityto act respectably and responsibly toward others.