[ an-ser, ahn- ]
See synonyms for: answeransweredansweringanswers on

  1. a spoken or written reply or response to a question, request, letter, etc.: He sent an answer to my letter promptly.

  2. a correct response to a question asked to test one's knowledge.

  1. an equivalent or approximation: The band tried to be the French answer to the Beatles.

  2. an action serving as a reply or response: The answer was a volley of fire.

  3. a solution to a problem, especially in mathematics.

  4. a reply to a charge or accusation.

  5. Law. a pleading in which a party responds to the opponent's statement of position, especially the defendant's reply to the plaintiff's complaint.

  6. Music. the entrance of a fugue subject, usually on the dominant, either slightly altered or transposed exactly after each presentation in the tonic.

verb (used without object)
  1. to speak or write in response; make answer; reply.

  2. to respond by an act or motion: He answered with a nod.The champion answered with a right to the jaw.

  1. to act or suffer in consequence of (usually followed by for).

  2. to be or declare oneself responsible or accountable (usually followed by for): I will answer for his safety.

  3. to be satisfactory or serve (usually followed by for): His cane answered for a baseball bat.

  4. to conform; correspond (usually followed by to): The prisoner answered to the description issued by the police.

verb (used with object)
  1. to speak or write in response to; reply to: to answer a person;to answer a question.

  2. to act or move in response to: Answer the doorbell. We answered their goal with two quick goals of our own.

  1. to solve or present a solution of.

  2. to serve or fulfill: This will answer the purpose.

  3. to discharge (a responsibility, claim, debt, etc.).

  4. to conform or correspond to; be similar or equivalent to: This dog answers your description.

  5. to atone for; make amends for.

  6. to reply or respond favorably to: I would like to answer your request but am unable to do so.

Verb Phrases
  1. answer back, to reply impertinently or rudely: Well-behaved children do not answer back when scolded.

Idioms about answer

  1. answer the helm, Nautical. (of a vessel) to maneuver or remain steady according to the position of the rudder.

Origin of answer

First recorded before 900; Middle English andswerien, Old English andswerian, andswarian, derivative of andswaru “an answer,” equivalent to and- “opposite, facing” (cf. and, along) + unattested Germanic swarō, derivative of swear

synonym study For answer

1. Answer, rejoinder, reply, response, retort all mean words used to meet a question, remark, charge, etc. An answer is a return remark: an answer giving the desired information. A rejoinder is a quick, usually clever answer or remark made in reply to another's comment, not to a question. Reply usually refers to a direct or point-by-point response to a suggestion, proposal, question, or the like: a reply to a letter. A response often suggests an answer to an appeal, exhortation, etc., or an expected or fixed reply: a response to inquiry; a response in a church service. A retort implies a keen, prompt answer, especially one that turns a remark upon the person who made it: a sharp retort.

word story For answer

In English, the verb answer derives from the noun, though both are equally old and occur in Old English translations of the Gospels. The Old English noun is andswaru “response to a question,” composed of the Old English prefix and- “against, contra-” and -swer with two meanings: the legal sense of “a swearing on oath, as in giving testimony” and the neutral, nonlegal sense of “a reply, a response to a question.” In both its legal and general senses, Old English andswaru parallels the Latin verb respondēre, originally a legal term meaning “to make a formal response,” and then used in the general sense “to answer, reply.”

Other words for answer

Other words from answer

  • an·swer·er, noun
  • an·swer·less, adjective
  • un·an·swered, adjective
  • un·an·swer·ing, adjective
  • well-answered, adjective

Words Nearby answer Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use answer in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for answer


/ (ˈɑːnsə) /

  1. a reply, either spoken or written, as to a question, request, letter, or article

  2. a reaction or response in the form of an action: drunkenness was his answer to disappointment

  1. a solution, esp of a mathematical problem

  2. law

    • a party's written reply to his opponent's interrogatories

    • (in divorce law) the respondent's written reply to the petition

  3. a musical phrase that follows the subject of a fugue, reproducing it a fifth higher or a fourth lower

  1. (when tr, may take a clause as object) to reply or respond (to) by word or act: to answer a question; he answered; to answer the door; he answered that he would come

  2. (tr) to reply correctly to; solve or attempt to solve: I could answer only three questions

  1. (intr usually foll by to) to respond or react (to a stimulus, command, etc): the steering answers to the slightest touch

  2. (tr) to pay off (a debt, obligation, etc); discharge

  3. (when intr, often foll by for) to meet the requirements (of); be satisfactory (for); serve the purpose (of): this will answer his needs; this will answer for a chisel

  4. (when intr, often foll by to) to match or correspond (esp in the phrase answer (or answer to) the description)

  5. (tr) to give a defence or refutation of (a charge) or in (an argument)

Origin of answer

Old English andswaru an answer; related to Old Frisian ondser, Old Norse andsvar; see swear

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with answer


In addition to the idioms beginning with answer

  • answer back
  • answer for
  • answer to

also see:

  • know all the answers
  • take no for an answer

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.