li·​a·​bil·​i·​ty ˌlī-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce liability (audio)
plural liabilities
: the quality or state of being liable
was cleared of liability for the accident
: something for which one is liable
especially : pecuniary obligation : debt
usually used in plural
business assets and liabilities
: one that acts as a disadvantage : drawback
This scandal makes the candidate a liability for the party.

Examples of liability in a Sentence

The company is trying to limit its liability in this case. though his small size is a liability as a football player, he makes up for it with speed
Recent Examples on the Web Trump and his lawyers have said that outside accountants that helped prepare his financial statements should’ve flagged any discrepancies and that the documents came with disclaimers that shielded him from liability. Michael R. Sisak, Fortune, 19 Feb. 2024 The former president has sought to turn such legal liabilities into political assets, falsely portraying the cases against him as a coordinated witch hunt. Alex Lemonides, New York Times, 17 Feb. 2024 Failure to act will result in regulatory liability from member states, as well as opening them up to civil litigation from those who are impacted. Jon McGowan, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 Once San Diego police completes the investigation, the county District Attorney’s Office will review it to determine if either officer faces criminal liability. Caleb Lunetta, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Feb. 2024 This is a potential liability with phage therapy, because the bacteria could evolve to evade the phage completely. Emily Mullin, WIRED, 14 Feb. 2024 Like Meta, OpenAI had asked a judge to dismiss some of the authors’ broadest claims about the company’s liability, and was largely successful in that endeavor. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 13 Feb. 2024 The Supreme Court has previously held that presidents are immune from civil liability for official acts, and Trump's lawyers have for months argued that that protection should be extended to criminal prosecution as well. Compiled Bydemocrat-Gazette Stafffrom Wire Reports,, 13 Feb. 2024 In 1971, Connecticut enacted a law mandating the full annual contribution by the state toward pensions and unfunded liabilities by 1985. Bryce Chinault, National Review, 13 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'liability.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1705, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of liability was in 1705

Dictionary Entries Near liability

Cite this Entry

“Liability.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


li·​a·​bil·​i·​ty ˌlī-ə-ˈbil-ət-ē How to pronounce liability (audio)
plural liabilities
: the state of being liable
liability for his debts
liability to disease
plural : that for which a person is liable : debts
: something that works as a disadvantage : drawback

Legal Definition


li·​a·​bil·​i·​ty ˌlī-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce liability (audio)
plural liabilities
: the quality or state of being liable
: something for which one is liable: as
: a financial obligation : debt
tax liability
the bonds are liabilities
compare asset
contingent liability
: an amount that may or may not be owed depending on the outcome of a contingency (as a cosigner's default on a loan)
fixed liability
: a liability (as a bond or mortgage) that does not mature for at least one year from the date incurred or from a given date
: accountability and responsibility to another enforceable by civil remedies or criminal sanctions
liability for injuries caused by their product
absolute liability
: strict liability in this entry
alternative liability
: joint liability imposed on multiple tortfeasors when there are simultaneous tortious acts (as defective manufacture of parts of a wheel by different manufacturers) and uncertainty as to which act was the proximate cause of an injury compare concert of action sense 1
civil liability
: liability imposed under civil laws and civil process as distinguished from criminal laws
also : the state of being subject to civil sanctions (as restitution or damages)
the acquittal does not relieve the corporation of civil liability for its fraud
see also tort

Note: Civil liability is created by a legal theory or principle that places a duty or obligation (as to use due care) on the defendant.

corporate liability
: liability of a corporation that is enforced by sanctions imposed against the corporation itself see also pierce
criminal liability
: liability imposed under criminal laws and by means of criminal prosecution
also : the state of being subject to criminal sanctions
enterprise liability
: liability imposed on a business enterprise especially for on-the-job injuries to employees
specifically : liability imposed on defendants who are all members of an industry that has produced a defective product when the specific manufacturer cannot be identified
joint and several liability
: joint liability imposed on joint tortfeasors that allows enforcement of the entire judgment against any one of the tortfeasors

Note: In some jurisdictions, joint and several liability remains despite adoption of comparative fault, and in others it has been eliminated by comparative fault.

joint liability
: liability that is shared (as by co-owners)
specifically : liability for a tort that is imposed on joint tortfeasors when they have acted in concert, owe the same duty to the plaintiff, have a legal relationship, or otherwise together have caused an injury to the plaintiff and that allows contribution or indemnity between the joint tortfeasors
liability in solido
: solidary liability in this entry
liability without fault
: strict liability in this entry
personal liability
: liability imposed against an individual especially for injuries that occur on the individual's property or as a result of the individual's activities
premises liability
: liability arising from injuries or losses occurring on one's premises
primary liability
: liability imposed directly on a person because of his or her own negligence, default, or legal undertaking
products liability
: liability imposed on a manufacturer or seller for a defective and unreasonably dangerous product
specifically : strict liability for a defective product that does not require the plaintiff to have privity of contract with the seller or manufacturer

called also product liability

Note: A plaintiff usually must show that a defective product was the proximate cause of injuries, was defective at the time of purchase, and was used for its intended purpose in order to establish a products liability claim.

secondary liability
: vicarious liability in this entry
: liability (as of a guarantor) that arises from a legal obligation owed to an injured party to pay damages for another's failure to perform or negligent act
several liability
: liability assumed or imposed on an individual separate from others
solidary liability
in the civil law of Louisiana : liability that is shared by obligors and that makes any one obligor liable for the entire obligation to the obligee but also apportions the liability among the obligors so that contribution is allowed
specifically : such liability for a tort that is imposed on joint tortfeasors see also solidary obligation at obligation
strict liability
: liability that is imposed without a finding of fault (as negligence or intent)
vicarious liability
: liability that is imposed for another's acts because of imputed or constructive fault (as negligence) see also respondeat superior

More from Merriam-Webster on liability

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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