adjective li·a·ble \ ˈlī-ə-bəl , especially in sense 2 often ˈlī-bəl \
|Updated on: 16 Jul 2018

Definition of liable

1 a : obligated according to law or equity (see equity 3) : responsible
  • liable for the debts incurred by his wife
b : subject to appropriation or attachment
  • All his property is liable to pay his debts.
2 a : being in a position to incur used with to
  • liable to a fine
b : exposed or subject to some usually adverse contingency or action
  • watch out or you're liable to fall

liable vs. apt

Both liable and apt when followed by an infinitive are used nearly interchangeably with likely. Although conflicting advice has been given over the years, most current commentators accept apt when so used. They generally recommend limiting liable to situations having an undesirable outcome, and our evidence shows that in edited writing it is more often so used than not.

Examples of liable in a Sentence

  1. If someone gets hurt on your property, you could be liable.

  2. because of his frail constitution, he's liable to diseases

Recent Examples of liable from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'liable.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of liable

Middle English lyable, from Anglo-French *liable, from lier to bind, from Latin ligare — more at ligature

Synonym Discussion of liable

liable, open, exposed, subject, prone, susceptible, sensitive mean being by nature or through circumstances likely to experience something adverse. liable implies a possibility or probability of incurring something because of position, nature, or particular situation.
    • liable to get lost
open stresses a lack of barriers preventing incurrence.
    • a claim open to question
exposed suggests lack of protection or powers of resistance against something actually present or threatening.
    • exposed to infection
subject implies an openness for any reason to something that must be suffered or undergone.
    • all reports are subject to review
prone stresses natural tendency or propensity to incur something.
    • prone to delay
susceptible implies conditions existing in one's nature or individual constitution that make incurrence probable.
    • very susceptible to flattery
sensitive implies a readiness to respond to or be influenced by forces or stimuli.
    • unduly sensitive to criticism

synonyms see in addition responsible

LIABLE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of liable for English Language Learners

  • : legally responsible for something

  • : likely to be affected or harmed by something

  • : likely to do something

LIABLE Defined for Kids


adjective li·a·ble \ ˈlī-ə-bəl \

Definition of liable for Students

1 : likely 1
  • It's liable to rain.
2 : judged by law to be responsible for something
  • We are liable for damage that we do.
3 : not sheltered or protected (as from danger or accident)
  • liable to injury

Law Dictionary


adjective li·a·ble \ ˈlī-ə-bəl \

legal Definition of liable

1 : answerable according to law : bound or obligated according to law or equity
  • one is liable as an accomplice to the crime of another
  • —W. R. LaFave and A. W. Scott, Jr.
  • the estate is liable for succession taxes
  • Commissioner of Revenue Services v. Estate of Culpepper, 493 A.2d 297 (1985)
2 a : being in a position to incur used with to
  • liable to a fine
  • property liable to duties
b : subject or amenable according to law

Origin and Etymology of liable

ultimately from Old French lier to bind, from Latin ligare

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