Duty vs. Obligation

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Duty and Obligation is that the Duty is a term that conveys a sense of moral commitment or obligation to someone or something and Obligation is a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal or moral.

  • Duty

    A duty (from “due” meaning “that which is owing”; Old French: deu, did, past participle of devoir; Latin: debere, debitum, whence “debt”) is a commitment or expectation to perform some action in general or if certain circumstances arise. A duty may arise from a system of ethics or morality, especially in an honor culture. Many duties are based created by law, sometimes including a codified punishment or liability for non-performance. Performing one’s duty may require some sacrifice of self-interest.

    Cicero, an early Roman philosopher who discusses duty in his work “On Duty”, suggests that duties can come from four different sources:

    as result of being a human

    as a result of one’s particular place in life (one’s family, one’s country, one’s job)

    as a result of one’s character

    as a result of one’s own moral expectations for oneselfThe specific duties imposed by law or culture vary considerably, depending on jurisdiction, religion, and social norms.

  • Obligation

    An obligation is a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal or moral. There are also obligations in other normative contexts, such as obligations of etiquette, social obligations, religious and possibly in terms of politics, where obligations are requirements which must be fulfilled. These are generally legal obligations, which can incur a penalty for non-fulfilment, although certain people are obliged to carry out certain actions for other reasons as well, whether as a tradition or for social reasons.

    Obligations vary from person to person: for example, a person holding a political office will generally have far more obligations than an average adult citizen, who themselves will have more obligations than a child. Obligations are generally granted in return for an increase in an individual’s rights or power. For example, obligations for health and safety in a workplace from employer to employee maybe to ensure the fire exit is not blocked or ensure that the plugs are put in firmly.

    The word “obligation” can also designate a written obligation, or such things as bank notes, coins, checks, bonds, stamps, or securities.

  • Duty (noun)

    That which one is morally or legally obligated to do.

    “We don’t have a duty to keep you here.”

  • Duty (noun)

    A period of time spent at work or doing a particular task.

    “I’m on duty from 6 pm to 6 am.”

  • Duty (noun)

    Describing a workload as to its idle, working and de-energized periods.

  • Duty (noun)

    A tax placed on imports or exports; a tariff.

    “customs duty; excise duty”

  • Duty (noun)

    One’s due, something one is owed; a debt or fee.

  • Duty (noun)

    Respect; reverence; regard; act of respect; homage.

  • Duty (noun)

    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).

  • Obligation (noun)

    The act of binding oneself by a social, legal, or moral tie to someone.

  • Obligation (noun)

    A social, legal, or moral requirement, duty, contract, or promise that compels someone to follow or avoid a particular course of action.

  • Obligation (noun)

    A course of action imposed by society, law, or conscience by which someone is bound or restricted.

  • Obligation (noun)

    A legal agreement stipulating a specified payment or action; the document containing such agreement.

    “X shall be entitled to subcontract its obligation to provide the Support Services. >”


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