Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


ordered by a law or rule

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The adjective mandatory comes from the Latin ‘mandatorious’, from ‘mandatum’ meaning a command or instruction. It has been used in English since the 15th century.


The wearing of face coverings in shops, as well as on public transport, has been made mandatory in England from this coming Friday. This is in line with other similar regulations coming into force around the world. While some people in England have been taking this precaution for some time, many have not; from Friday those who refuse will become liable to a £100 fine. Compliance is expected to increase as the days go on, as it has for all other precautionary measures that have been put in place since the start of the pandemic. Mandatory is a surprisingly frequent word in English, with almost a third of a million citations in our corpus. Mandatory is used overwhelmingly in legal contexts, with common noun collocates including sentence, minimum, detention, arbitration and sentencing. Common adverb collocates include constitutionally, legally and contractually, as well as conditionally and unconditionally. The more general term ‘compulsory‘ has less than half as many citations as mandatory. In official discourse mandatory is often preferred, perhaps because it suggests a basis in law rather than something that is just being imposed.


“Masks are mandatory in plenty of countries around the world – including Germany, Italy, and Spain, as well as Scotland – and they haven’t sparked violent outbursts”

Related words

compulsory, obligatory, de rigueur

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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