1. A series of words spoken, written, or signed in reaction to a question, request, or other prompt; a reply: I wrote weeks ago but never got an answer.
2. An act that serves as a reply or response: Our only possible answer was to sue. Their answer was to ignore me.
a. A solution or result, as to a problem: We all got the right answer to that problem.
b. The correct solution or response: The teacher read the answers to the quiz aloud.
4. Something markedly similar to another of the same class: cable TV's answer to the broadcast networks' sportscasts.
5. Law A defendant's response to the allegations that have been made against them.
v. an·swered, an·swer·ing, an·swers
1. To speak, write, or sign as a reaction to a question or other prompt: He couldn't take the call but answered with a text message.
2. To act in reaction or as a response: Their team scored, but our team answered with a quick goal.
3. To be liable or accountable: You must answer for your actions to your supervisor.
4. To serve the purpose; suffice: “Often I do use three words where one would answer” (Mark Twain).
5. To match; correspond: I found a dog answering to that description.
a. To produce an answer to: She answered the email.
b. To state in reply: He answered that he was unable to join us.
2. To respond correctly to: I can't answer the question.
3. To act in response to: The police answered the call for help. The soldiers answered the attack.
4. To argue in defense of oneself against (an accusation or charge).
5. To be sufficient for (a need, for instance); fulfill: “My fortune has answered my desires” (Izaak Walton).
6. To match or correspond to: The suspect answers the description given by the police.
[Middle English answere, from Old English andswaru; see swer- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: answer, respond, reply, retort1
These verbs relate to action taken in return to a stimulus. Answer, respond, and reply, the most general, all mean to speak, write, sign, or act in response: Please answer my question. Did you expect the president to respond personally to your letter? The opposing team scored three runs; the home team replied with two of their own. Respond also denotes a reaction, either voluntary (A bystander responded to the victim's need for help) or involuntary (He responded in spite of himself to the antics of the puppy). To retort is to answer verbally in a quick, caustic, or witty manner: She won the debate by retorting sharply to her opponent's questions. See Also Synonyms at satisfy.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.