a. Liable to be required to give account, as of one's actions or of the discharge of a duty or trust: Who is responsible while their parents are away?
b. Required to render account; answerable: The cabinet is responsible to the parliament.
2. Involving important duties, the supervision of others, or the ability to make decisions with little supervision: a responsible position within the firm.
3. Being a source or cause: Viruses are responsible for many diseases.
a. Able to make moral or rational decisions on one's own and therefore answerable for one's behavior: At what age does a person become responsible?
b. Able to be trusted or depended upon; trustworthy or reliable: a responsible art dealer.
5. Based on or characterized by good judgment or sound thinking: responsible journalism.
[Obsolete French, corresponding to, from Latin respōnsus, past participle of respondēre, to respond; see RESPOND.]
Synonyms: responsible, answerable, liable, accountable, amenable
These adjectives share the meaning obliged to answer, as for one's actions, to an authority that may impose a penalty for failure. Responsible often implies the satisfactory performance of duties or the trustworthy care for or disposition of possessions: "I am responsible for the ship's safety" (Robert Louis Stevenson).
Answerable suggests a moral or legal responsibility subject to review by a higher authority: The court held the parents answerable for their minor child's acts of vandalism. Liable refers to a legal obligation, as to pay damages: The builder is liable for the cost of delays. Accountable especially emphasizes giving an account of one's discharge of a responsibility: "The liberal philosophy holds that enduring governments must be accountable to someone beside themselves" (Walter Lippmann).
Amenable implies being subject to the control of an authority and therefore the absence of complete autonomy: "There is no constitutional tribunal to which [the king] is amenable" (Alexander Hamilton). See Also Synonyms at reliable.
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.