accountable

[ uh-koun-tuh-buhl ]
/ əˈkaʊn tə bəl /

adjective

subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable.
capable of being explained; explicable; explainable.

Origin of accountable

late Middle English word dating back to 1375–1425; see origin at account, -able

OTHER WORDS FROM accountable

ac·count·a·ble·ness, nounac·count·a·bly, adverbnon·ac·count·a·ble, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does accountable mean?

Accountable means obligated to explain, justify, and take responsibility for one’s actions, and to answer to someone, such as a person with more authority.

The state of being accountable is accountability.

The word accountable is often used in the context of individuals taking responsibility for their actions. It’s 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.

Accountable is often used with the verb hold, as in We need to hold him accountable for his actions. 

Example: The system of checks and balances is intended to keep the different branches of government accountable.

Where does accountable come from?

The first records of accountable come from the 1300s. 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.

You can’t keep people accountable 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 holding a person—or oneself—accountable starts with honesty. Accountability in institutions and organizations starts with transparency (such as access to documents). Holding people accountable 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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How is accountable used in real life?

Accountable is used in the context of both organizations and individuals.

 

 

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Being accountable usually requires transparency and consequences.

Example sentences from the Web for accountable

British Dictionary definitions for accountable

accountable
/ (əˈkaʊntəbəl) /

adjective

responsible to someone or for some action; answerable
able to be explained

Derived forms of accountable

accountability, nounaccountably, adverb
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