My dictionary gives the same meaning for both. I'm sure I have used, and have heard both words used for at least the last 35 or more years. I don't think in this day and age, that we can call either wrong, but "obliged" is shorter and I'm all for more efficiency.
The way I always understood it is that to say 'obligated' is to refer to something you have to do. To say 'obliged' is to refer to something you intend or want to do, but can refrain from doing without serious repurcussions.
"I'm obliged to vote in this thread, but I'm not obligated to do so."
i didnt know there was a distinction. I've noticed that before with language though. some words start off meaning the same thing but grow away from each other and become a little more fine-tuned. that's waht makes english so great i think, the redundancy from the combination of so many tongues has lead to a great deal of fine tuning and so one can be very precise about what you mean
Main Entry: oblige
Inflected Form(s): obliged; oblig·ing
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French obliger, from Latin obligare, literally, to bind to, from ob- toward + ligare to bind -- more at LIGATURE (external - login to view)
1 : to constrain by physical, moral, or legal force or by the exigencies of circumstance <obliged to find a job>
2 a : to put in one's debt by a favor or service <we are much obliged for your help> b : to do a favor for <always ready to oblige a friend>
intransitive verb : to do something as or as if as a favor
Main Entry: 1ob·li·gate
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -gat·ed; -gat·ing
Etymology: Latin obligatus, past participle of obligare
1 : to bind legally or morally : CONSTRAIN (external - login to view)
2 : to commit (as funds) to meet an obligation (external - login to view)
Main Entry: 2ob·li·gate
Pronunciation: 'ä-bli-g&t, -bl&-"gAt
1 : restricted to one particularly characteristic mode of life <an obligate parasite>
2 : biologically essential for survival <obligate mutualism>
- ob·li·gate·ly adverb