[ uh-koun-tuh-bil-i-tee ]
/ əˌkaʊn təˈbɪl ɪ ti /
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the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.
Education. a policy of holding schools and teachers accountable for students' academic progress by linking such progress with funding for salaries, maintenance, etc.
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Origin of accountability

First recorded in 1785–95; account(able) + -ability

OTHER WORDS FROM accountability

non·ac·count·a·bil·i·ty, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does accountability mean?

Accountability is the obligation to explain, justify, and take responsibility for one’s actions.

Accountability is the state of being accountable, meaning responsible for something or obligated to answer to someone, such as a person with more authority, like a boss.

The word accountability is often used in the context of individuals, especially in the term personal accountability. It is also commonly used in the context of institutions or people that are responsible to the public, such as the government, its agencies, politicians, and the media. Accountability is often discussed with transparency and consequences. This typically involves keeping people and organizations accountable by making their actions visible and having consequences when those actions are not acceptable.

Example: The system of checks and balances is intended to ensure accountability among the different branches of government.

Where does accountability come from?

The first records of the word accountability come from the 1700s. Its base word, account, is often used as a verb meaning “to justify” or “to explain,” as in How do you account for your actions? To be accountable, then, is to be able to account for one’s actions, and accountability is the state of being able to account for one’s actions.

There can be no accountability without an account—meaning a record of what happened, or at least the knowledge of it. If actions are hidden, there can be no accountability for them. This means that personal accountability starts with honesty, and accountability in institutions and organizations starts with transparency (such as access to documents). Accountability also involves establishing consequences. Otherwise, people and institutions would be free to do whatever they wanted—leading to corruption. In this way, accountability usually involves methods intended to prevent too much power from being held in one place. For individuals, it often involves recognizing shortcomings (such as implicit bias) and working to overcome them.

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What are some other forms related to accountability?

What are some synonyms for accountability?

What are some words that share a root or word element with accountability

What are some words that often get used in discussing accountability?

How is accountability used in real life?

Accountability is discussed in the context of both organizations and individuals.



Try using accountability!

True or False? 

Accountability usually requires transparency and consequences.

How to use accountability in a sentence