What does “a conferred obligation” mean? Given that confer has a positive sense to it as a transitive verb, could it be used to refer to an obligation which is favorable for the obligor or considered an opportunity for them? Or does it simply mean that it is expected from the obligor to feel indebted? If the latter is true, how the former should be expressed?

The following might provide some context:

A Roman proverb:

“Be not unmindful of obligations conferred.”

A passage from an essay on Aristotle and Shakespeare:

“Friendship cannot be purchased; such a conception is false and unphilosophical neither love nor friendship are to be obtained by gold although when possessed both may be strengthened by its influence. [...] In those however who belong to the higher walks of life it is very much to be doubted whether a conferred obligation which circumstances may not enable them to expunge is not a barrier to real friendship [...]”

An excerpt from Continental adventures:

“Nothing attaches woman to man so strongly as the sense of obligation She is proud of his superiority not humbled by it. With man it is the reverse He loves the woman on whom he has conferred obligation who clings to him for protection and looks up to him as a superior being.”

An excerpt from The Fortunate Union: A Romance : in Two Volumes:

“I merely righted a case of oppression in my path and had no reason to think that I either conferred obligation on the one hand or excited enmity [...]”

And used in a definition in a scientific paper:

“Responsibility: A conferred obligation to behave in a specific manner and/or to ensure that others do.”


It merely means creating an obligation for someone to do something, as opposed to an obligation that already existed by default, such as caring for one's children or abiding by the law. A common way to confer an obligation on someone is by doing him a favour or giving him a certain responsibility, like an office (provided that he accept it). So a conferred obligation would simply be an obligation incurred by a specific action.

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