Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for July 25, 2020 is:
noblesse oblige • noh-BLESS-uh-BLEEZH • noun
: the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth
“Like many independent schools, Shipley cultivates a sense of noblesse oblige among its students—the notion that part of being educated in a privileged environment requires scholars to give back.” — Alfred Lubrano, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 May 2020
“And, unlike the goal of simply becoming fabulously wealthy—which one could also accomplish by winning the lottery or marrying a nonroyal oil magnate—princesshood came with a sense of noblesse oblige. You would be doing it to inspire people. You would be your own act of charity.” — Monica Hesse, The Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2020
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 others—due, for example, to high office or celebrity—to act respectably and responsibly.