See more synonyms for liable on
  1. legally responsible: You are liable for the damage caused by your action.
  2. subject or susceptible: to be liable to heart disease.
  3. likely or apt: He's liable to get angry.

Origin of liable

1535–45; < Anglo-French li(er) to bind (< Latin ligāre) + -able
Related formsnon·li·a·ble, adjectivepre·li·a·ble, adjectiveun·li·a·ble, adjective
Can be confuseddefamation liable libel slander (see usage note at the current entry)liable libel

Synonyms for liable

See more synonyms for on
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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for unliable


adjective (postpositive)
  1. legally obliged or responsible; answerable
  2. susceptible or exposed; subject
  3. probable, likely, or capableit's liable to happen soon
Derived Formsliableness, noun

Word Origin for liable

C15: perhaps via Anglo-French, from Old French lier to bind, from Latin ligāre


The use of liable to to mean likely to was formerly considered incorrect, but is now acceptable
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

Word Origin and History for unliable



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