Meaning of DUTY in English


du ‧ ty S2 W1 /ˈdjuːti $ ˈduː-/ BrE AmE noun ( plural duties )

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Anglo-French ; Origin: dueté , from Old French deu ; ⇨ ↑ due 1 ]

1 . SOMETHING YOU MUST DO [uncountable and countable] something that you have to do because it is morally or legally right SYN obligation :

I promise I will do my duty.

We feel it is our duty to help her.

Local authorities have a duty to keep the streets clean.

You have a duty to your husband and to your children.

She has a strong sense of moral duty.

The unions have failed in their duty to female workers.

In the traditional Hindu family, the son is duty-bound to look after his mother.

2 . WORK [countable usually plural, uncountable] something you have to do as part of your job


Martin’s duties included cleaning the cars.

She works for her father doing part-time secretarial duties.

He will soon be fit enough to carry out his duties (=do his job) .

He can only do light duties.

When Juliet reported for duty (=arrived and said she was ready to start work) she was sent to check on a new patient.

A teacher may be fired for neglect of duty (=failing to do their job properly) .

He did three tours of duty in Vietnam (=three periods working in a foreign country as a soldier, government officer etc) .

3 . be on/off duty to be working or not working at a particular time, especially when you are doing a job which people take turns to do, so that someone is always doing it:

He’s on night duty.

Mary goes on duty (=starts working) tonight at half past ten.

What time do you go off duty (=finish work) ?

4 . TAX [uncountable and countable] a tax you pay on something you buy

duty on

the duty on cigarettes

customs duty (=tax paid on goods coming into the country) ⇨ ↑ death duties , ↑ stamp duty

5 . do duty as something to be used as something SYN serve as something :

The living room also does duty as a home office.

⇨ ↑ double duty , ↑ heavy-duty , ⇨ jury duty at ↑ jury service , ⇨ on active duty at ↑ active service

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COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ verbs

▪ have a duty to do something

Parents have a duty to make sure that their children receive an education.

▪ do your duty

I felt I had done my duty by voting.

▪ fulfil your duty British English , fulfill your duty American English formal (=do what is needed)

The school has failed to fulfil its legal duty towards students.

▪ have/owe a duty to somebody

A tenant owes a duty to the landlord to keep the house in reasonable condition.

▪ fail in your duty (=not do something that you should do)

I would be failing in my duty if I didn't warn you of the dangers.

■ adjectives

▪ a moral duty

She felt it was her moral duty to treat everyone equally.

▪ a legal duty

Employers have a legal duty to ensure the safety of their workforce.

▪ a statutory duty (=required by law)

Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that parks are clean.

▪ a public duty (=relating to the people of a country)

The media has a public duty to report the truth.

▪ a civic duty (=done because you live in a place)

It is your civic duty to vote.

■ phrases

▪ a sense of duty

He was caring for his parents out of a sense of duty rather than love.

▪ be duty-bound to do something formal (=have a duty to do something)

Soldiers are here to do a job and are duty-bound to complete it.

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COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 2)

■ verbs

▪ carry out your duties ( also perform/discharge your duties formal ) (=do your job)

She has always carried out her duties efficiently.

▪ take up your duties (=start doing a new job)

Neale has agreed a three-year contract and takes up his duties on March 1.

▪ resume your duties (=start doing your job again)

She hopes to be well enough to resume her duties next week.

▪ report for duty (=arrive and be ready to start work)

You must report for duty at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

▪ neglect/shirk your duties (=not do your job properly)

No soldier can be allowed to neglect his duties.


▪ official duties

The new President will take up his official duties next month.

▪ presidential/royal/ministerial etc duties (=duties that go with being a president, member of a royal family, a minister etc)

The prince is now old enough to carry out royal duties.

▪ household/domestic duties (=jobs you have to do around the house)

My husband and I share most of the household duties.

▪ light duties (=not involving hard physical work)

He'd been wounded, sent home and put on light duties.

▪ guard duty (=job of guarding a place)

There were two soldiers on guard duty outside the embassy.

■ phrases

▪ neglect of duty (=failing to do your job properly)

Six police officers were fired for neglect of duty.

▪ a tour of duty (=period of working in another country as a soldier, government officer etc)

He became a General, and his tours of duty included Korea and Vietnam.

▪ beyond the call of duty (=more than you have to do as part of your job)

She's a doctor who has gone beyond the call of duty in her care for her patients.

▪ in the course of duty (=while doing your job, especially for your country)

Stewart received a medal for outstanding bravery in the course of duty.

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▪ tax money that you must pay to the government, especially from the money you earn, or as an additional payment when you buy something:

How much income tax do you pay each month?


The Republicans promised to reduce taxes before the last election.


Consumers are angry that the tax on petrol has gone up yet again.

▪ duty a tax you pay on something you buy:

The budget also sharply raised the duty on alcohol and tobacco.


customs duty (=tax you pay on goods you buy and bring into the country)

▪ tariff a tax on goods coming into a country or going out of a country, especially to protect a country’s industry from cheap goods from other countries:

the import tariffs on hi-tech equipment


The government’s tariff and trade policies came under fierce attack.

▪ levy an extra amount of money that you have to pay the government, usually as a tax, often in order to encourage people not to use or do something:

A new levy on fuel inefficient vehicles has been proposed.

▪ surcharge an amount of money that you have to pay in addition to the agreed or stated price of something:

British Airways will increase its fuel surcharge on all airline tickets from June 3.


When you get cash at some machines, you have to pay an ATM surcharge.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.