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[lahy-uh-buh l] /ˈlaɪ ə bəl/
legally responsible:
You are liable for the damage caused by your action.
subject or susceptible:
to be liable to heart disease.
likely or apt:
He's liable to get angry.
Origin of liable
1535-45; < Anglo-French li(er) to bind (< Latin ligāre) + -able
Related forms
nonliable, adjective
preliable, adjective
unliable, adjective
Can be confused
defamation, liable, libel, slander (see usage note at the current entry)
liable, libel.
1. obliged, accountable.
Usage note
Liable is often interchangeable with likely in constructions with a following infinitive where the sense is that of probability: The Sox are liable (or likely) to sweep the Series. Some usage guides, however, say that liable can be used only in contexts in which the outcome is undesirable: The picnic is liable to be spoiled by rain. This use occurs often in formal writing but not to the exclusion of use in contexts in which the outcome is desirable: The drop in unemployment is liable to stimulate the economy. Apt may also be used in place of liable or likely in all the foregoing examples. See also apt, likely. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for liable
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • With Selma liable to show up, he was ready to do as he was told.

    The House of Torchy Sewell Ford
  • Hyperboreans have a mental disease which renders them liable to suggestion.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • Rabbi Jehuda, however, says he is only liable if he breaks it intentionally.

  • A person was as liable to be charged with heresy if better than the crowd as if worse.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • I did not know that war with Spain had been declared, and that I might be liable, right there, to meet the enemy and be captured.

British Dictionary definitions for liable


adjective (postpositive)
legally obliged or responsible; answerable
susceptible or exposed; subject
probable, likely, or capable: it's liable to happen soon
Derived Forms
liableness, noun
Usage note
The use of liable to to mean likely to was formerly considered incorrect, but is now acceptable
Word Origin
C15: perhaps via Anglo-French, from Old French lier to bind, from Latin ligāre
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for liable

mid-15c., "bound or obliged by law," probably from Anglo-French *liable, from Old French lier "to bind, tie up, fasten, tether; bind by obligation," from Latin ligare "to bind, to tie" (see ligament). With -able. General sense of "exposed to" (something undesirable) is from 1590s. Incorrect use for "likely" is attested by 1886.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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