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.
  3. an equivalent or approximation: a singing group that tried to be the French answer to the Beatles.
  4. an action serving as a reply or response: The answer was a volley of fire.
  5. a solution to a problem, especially in mathematics.
  6. a reply to a charge or accusation.
  7. Law. a pleading in which a party responds to his or her opponent’s statement of position, especially the defendant’s reply to the plaintiff’s complaint.
  8. 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.
  3. to act or suffer in consequence of (usually followed by for).
  4. to be or declare oneself responsible or accountable (usually followed by for): I will answer for his safety.
  5. to be satisfactory or serve (usually followed by for): His cane answered for a baseball bat.
  6. 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.
  3. to solve or present a solution of.
  4. to serve or fulfill: This will answer the purpose.
  5. to discharge (a responsibility, claim, debt, etc.).
  6. to conform or correspond to; be similar or equivalent to: This dog answers your description.
  7. to atone for; make amends for.
  8. 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.
  1. answer the helm, Nautical. (of a vessel) to maneuver or remain steady according to the position of the rudder.


  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 actiondrunkenness was his answer to disappointment
  3. a solution, esp of a mathematical problem
  4. law
    1. a party’s written reply to his opponent’s interrogatories
    2. (in divorce law) the respondent’s written reply to the petition
  5. 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 actto 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 solveI could answer only three questions
  3. (intr usually foll by to) to respond or react (to a stimulus, command, etc)the steering answers to the slightest touch
  4. (tr) to pay off (a debt, obligation, etc); discharge
  5. (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
  6. (when intr, often foll by to) to match or correspond (esp in the phrase answer (or answer to) the description)
  7. (tr) to give a defence or refutation of (a charge) or in (an argument)

Old English andswaru “an answer, a reply,” from and- “against” (see ante) + -swaru “affirmation,” from swerian “to swear” (see swear), suggesting an original sense of “make a sworn statement rebutting a charge.” A common Germanic compound (cf. Old Saxon antswor, Old Norse andsvar, Old Frisian ondser, Danish and Swedish ansvar), implying a Proto-Germanic *andswara-. Meaning “a reply to a question,” the main modern sense, was present in Old English. Meaning “solution of a problem” is from c.1300.


Old English answarian “to answer;” see answer (n.). Meaning “to respond in antiphony” is from early 15c.; that of “to be responsible for” is early 13c. Related: Answered; answering. The telephone answering machine is from 1961.

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
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