li·​a·​ble ˈlī-ə-bəl How to pronounce liable (audio)
 especially in sense 2 often  ˈlī-bəl
: obligated according to law or equity (see equity sense 3) : responsible
Both owners are liable for the debts incurred by the business.
: subject to appropriation or attachment
All his property is liable to pay his debts.
: being in a position to incur
used with to
liable to a fine
: exposed or subject to some usually adverse contingency or action
Watch out or you're liable to fall.
Liable vs. Apt: Usage Guide

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.

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Example Sentences

If someone gets hurt on your property, you could be liable. because of his frail constitution, he's liable to diseases
Recent Examples on the Web For some, e-scooters for rent are an eyesore, liable to cause accidents on and off the sidewalk. Annabelle Timsit, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2022 The lithium-ion batteries used in many e-bikes are also liable to catch fire under certain conditions. Kyle Bagenstose, USA TODAY, 12 Nov. 2022 In his defamation trial, Jones was found liable of violating Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by using lies about the Sandy Hook massacre to sell products on his website. Ethan Shanfeld, Variety, 10 Nov. 2022 Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer/director of 2004's Crash, has been found liable of raping a publicist at his apartment back in 2013. Benjamin Vanhoose, Peoplemag, 10 Nov. 2022 Bankman-Fried quietly deleted a tweet claiming that FTX customer funds were safe because the funds can be liable to seizure by an administrator for liquidation to pay off creditors from the insolvency estate. Sophie Mellor, Fortune, 10 Nov. 2022 There’s no international law requiring responsible behavior, Weeden says, though China is party to the United Nations Liability Convention, which means the country’s liable if its rocket causes damage or injury. WIRED, 4 Nov. 2022 The verdict marks another loss for internet providers being held vicariously liable for copyright infringement for turning a blind eye to users illegally downloading music and movies. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Nov. 2022 The larger of the two debts comes from another court’s ruling holding Dobos liable for $1.3 million for deliberately concealing his debts to secure a financing arrangement to purchase an education supplies business. Jake Zuckerman, cleveland, 3 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of liable was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near liable

Cite this Entry

“Liable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



li·​a·​ble ˈlī-ə-bəl How to pronounce liable (audio)
 especially in senses 2 & 3 often  ˈlī-bəl
: forced by law or by what is right to make good
we are liable for damage that we do
: not sheltered or protected (as from danger or accident)
liable to diseases
: exposed to or likely to experience something that usually is undesirable
you're liable to slip there
it's liable to rain before we're done

Legal Definition



li·​a·​ble ˈlī-ə-bəl How to pronounce liable (audio)
: 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)
: being in a position to incur
used with to
liable to a fine
property liable to duties
: subject or amenable according to law

History and Etymology for liable

ultimately from Old French lier to bind, from Latin ligare

More from Merriam-Webster on liable

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.