Definition of duty in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈd(y)o͞odē/

noun (plural duties)

1A moral or legal obligation; a responsibility: it’s my duty to uphold the law she was determined to do her duty as a citizen a strong sense of duty
More example sentences
  • It's to do my duty as a physician, and they often have disagreeable outcomes when you do your duty, and this is one very disagreeable outcome.
  • To the last minute of my holding the presidency, I will responsibly do my duty.
  • They have to do their duty and their responsibility.
responsibility, obligation, commitment;
allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, homage
1.1 [as modifier] (Of a visit or other undertaking) done from a sense of moral obligation rather than for pleasure: a fifteen-minute duty visit
More example sentences
  • Let the occasional duty visits be brief and bearable.
2 (often duties) A task or action that someone is required to perform: the queen’s official duties your duties will include sweeping the switchboard Juliet reported for duty
More example sentences
  • How do you know the staff who arrive at camp are qualified to perform the duties you are requiring of them?
  • Boys and girls were trained for the separate duties and tasks required in the gendered world of their day.
  • Officers chosen to conduct the battalion's tactical planning need to have the proper training and experience in order to perform their required duties.
job, task, assignment, mission, function, charge, place, role, responsibility, obligation
dated office
2.1 [as modifier] (Of a person) engaged in their regular work: a duty nurse
More example sentences
  • On both nights the duty nurse was based on the unit, but on both nights their duties took them to the residential units and those for elderly and mentally ill patients for considerable periods.
  • Patients will have to call the surgery after 8.30 am and leave a contact number as well as a time when the duty nurse can call to discuss the problem.
  • Eventually, my mom hired a private duty nurse, whom my grandma promptly fired.
2.2Military service: combat duty in the army
More example sentences
  • The primary service was military duty as a mounted knight.
  • Why should ordinary Koreans pay taxes for those shirkers who educate their children abroad and avoid military service duties?
  • The other recurring problem is the avoidance of military service by privileged youth during peacetime and combat duty during wars.
2.3 (also duties) Performance of prescribed church services by a priest or minister: he was willing to take Sunday duties
More example sentences
  • As much as $10,000 of the budgets could be used to help the church pay for pastoral duties during its pastor's absence.
  • For now, she continues with her ministerial duties, serving the church she sees as part of her family.
  • It is not uncommon for a minister to drive 6-10,000 miles per year in carrying out the ministerial duties for a congregation.
3A payment due and enforced by law or custom, in particular.
Example sentences
  • Strip the Church of its tax exemption and levy huge duties against its property value.
  • We have a budget lower than ten years ago, with the Government continuing to impose additional duties and not properly finance them.
  • Licence duties tend to have very small disincentive effects on car ownership due to their relatively low level (they are primarily put in place by governments to raise revenue).
tax, levy, tariff, excise, toll, fee, payment, rate, countervail;
3.1A payment levied on the import, export, manufacture, or sale of goods: a 6 percent duty on imports goods subject to excise duty
More example sentences
  • These include priority treatment in obtaining basic infrastructure services and significant reductions in national and local income taxes, land fees, and import and export duties.
  • Getting the manufacturing association to back a duty on low-priced Chinese imports was a victory for small manufacturers.
  • Many governments put tariffs on the import of goods, whether stated as an import duty or a sales tax only on imported goods.
4 technical The measure of an engine’s effectiveness in units of work done per unit of fuel.



do duty as (or for)

Serve or act as a substitute for something else: her mug was doing duty as a wine glass
More example sentences
  • In China there is a single word which does duty for all these animals.
  • My first and second pacers weighed a hefty 200 gm (now doing duty as a paperweight - how the mighty are fallen!) and I had to clutch my chest with my hand while running!
  • The main tradition of our historical fiction has been rather homely and dour, with puritanism doing duty as the mother of necessity.

on (or off) duty

Engaged (or not engaged) in one’s regular work: the doorman had gone off duty and the lobby was unattended
More example sentences
  • The few regular carers on duty tried to talk to the quartet, hoping to mollify them.
  • The day my mother died the regular nurse was off duty, and a replacement came instead.
  • Are the core values inherent in you in all that you do, both on duty and off duty?
not working, at leisure, on leave, off (work), free
working, at work, busy, occupied, engaged
informal on the job


Late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French duete, from Old French deu (see due).

Words that rhyme with duty

agouti, beauty, booty, cootie, cutie, Djibouti, fluty, rooty, snooty, tutti-frutti

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: du·ty

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