What does mandatory mean? Explanation & examples

Obligatory is an adjective that relates less to objects or circumstances and more to actions. Sometimes it is also abbreviated as “obligatory”. GIGA explains to you what the word means and gives you a few examples of its use.

Mandatory is related to the word optional. This pair of words is about opposites. If something is not optional, it is compulsory – and most of you should have already understood the meaning of compulsory.

Mandatory – meaning, origin & examples

The foreign word “obligatory” comes from the Latin verb “obligare”, which means something like “to bind” or “to oblige”.

If something is “compulsory”, it is mandatory. Participation in something (such as an exam) may be compulsory in order to receive a certificate. Paying a fee is sometimes required in order for something to be processed.

Possible synonyms for mandatory are:

  • absolutely necessary
  • necessary
  • required
  • requirement
  • causing obligation

The word is used much less often than its opposite, “optional”. In Internet forms, some information is often “optional”. In contrast to this, however, the other information is often called “mandatory fields”.

From “mandatory” there is a duty and it can be involuntary. The word can also be used to show that something is viewed as “bothersome but inevitable”.


  • “Every year he sent his parents the mandatory Christmas card.”
  • “The obligatory dessert always gave him the rest!”
  • “Thanks to the pandemic, you can finally skip the obligatory hug in your family circle.”

Here the word describes a circumstance that is viewed by others as mandatory and which, as a rule, cannot be avoided without stress.

Difference between mandatory and mandatory

Alternatively, you can also use the ancient “obligatory”. In most cases it has the same meaning, but is sometimes used differently. Instead of an obligation, it is usually used to express that something is urgently required, but is ultimately subject to one’s own decision.

In a medical diagnosis, for example, it can be stated that the removal of a tumor is “obligatory”. Then it actually means that it is indispensable and absolutely necessary – but you can’t force the patient to do it.

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