AskDefine | Define duty

Dictionary Definition



1 work that you are obliged to perform for moral or legal reasons; "the duties of the job"
2 the social force that binds you to your obligations and the courses of action demanded by that force; "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 [syn: responsibility, obligation]
3 a government tax on imports or exports; "they signed a treaty to lower duties on trade between their countries" [syn: tariff]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. That which one is morally or legally obligated to do.
    England expects that every man will do his duty. (Nelson)
    She felt it was her bounten duty to tell the police about the incident.
  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.



that which one is morally or legally obligated to do
  • Arabic: واجب
  • Catalan: obligació
  • Chinese:
    Mandarin: (rèn); ()
  • Czech: povinnost
  • Dutch: plicht
  • Esperanto: devo
  • Finnish: velvollisuus
  • French: devoir
  • German: Pflicht
  • Italian: dovere
  • Japanese: 義務(ぎむ, gimu)
  • Malayalam: കടമ
  • Polish: obowiązek
  • Portuguese: dever, obrigação
  • Russian: долг, обязанность
  • Slovene: dolžnost
  • Spanish: deber, obligación
  • Swahili: zamu
period of time
  • Catalan: servei
  • Finnish: työvuoro
  • French: travail
  • Malayalam: ജോലിസമയം
  • Polish: służba
  • Russian: дежурство, f
tax; tariff
  • Catalan: taxa
  • Chinese:
    Mandarin: (shuì)
  • Crimean Tatar: bergi
  • Czech: clo
  • Finnish: tullimaksu
  • French: taxe
  • German: Zoll
  • Italian: tassa, dazio
  • Japanese: 関税(かんぜい, kanzei)
  • Malayalam: തീരുവ
  • Polish: cło
  • Portuguese: imposto, taxa
  • Russian: пошлина
  • Spanish: arancel

Extensive Definition

this duty in ethics Duty (from "due," that which is owing, O. Fr. deu, did, past participle of devoir; Lat. debere, debitum; cf. "debt") is a term that conveys a sense of moral commitment to someone or something. The moral commitment is the sort that results in action, and it is not a matter of passive feeling or mere recognition. When someone recognizes a duty, that person commits himself/herself to the cause involved without considering the self-interested courses of actions that may have been relevant previously. This is not to suggest that living a life of duty precludes one from the best sort of life, but duty does involve some sacrifice of immediate self-interest.
Cicero is an early philosopher who acknowledged this possibility. He discusses duty in his work “On Duty." He suggests that duties can come from four different sources:
  1. It is a result of being human
  2. It is a result of one's particular place in life (your family, your country, your job)
  3. It is a result of one's personality
  4. One's own moral expectations for yourself can generate duties
But it seems that one can be compelled to live up to a duty. That is not always the case. In the case of mandatory child support, a parent is being put in such a position.
From the root idea of obligation to serve or give something in return, involved in the conception of duty, have sprung various derivative uses of the word; thus it is used of the services performed by a minister of a church, by a soldier, or by any employee or servant.
A special application is to a tax, a payment due to the revenue of a state, levied by force of law. Properly a "duty" differs from a "tax" in being levied on specific commodities, transactions, estates, &c., and not on individuals; thus it is right to talk of import-duties, excise-duties, death or succession-duties and etc., but of income tax as being levied on a person in proportion to his income.
Many schools of thought have debated the idea of duty. While many assert mankind's duty on their own terms, some philosophers have absolutely rejected a sense of duty.


duty in Czech: Povinnost
duty in Danish: Pligt
duty in German: Pflicht
duty in French: Devoir
duty in Japanese: 義務
duty in Norwegian: Plikt
duty in Russian: Долг (философия)
duty in Swedish: Plikt

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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