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[an-ser, ahn-] /ˈæn sər, ˈɑn-/
a spoken or written reply or response to a question, request, letter, etc.:
He sent an answer to my letter promptly.
a correct response to a question asked to test one's knowledge.
an equivalent or approximation:
a singing group that tried to be the French answer to the Beatles.
an action serving as a reply or response:
The answer was a volley of fire.
a solution to a problem, especially in mathematics.
a reply to a charge or accusation.
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.
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)
to speak or write in response; make answer; reply.
to respond by an act or motion:
He answered with a nod. The champion answered with a right to the jaw.
to act or suffer in consequence of (usually followed by for).
to be or declare oneself responsible or accountable (usually followed by for):
I will answer for his safety.
to be satisfactory or serve (usually followed by for):
His cane answered for a baseball bat.
to conform; correspond (usually followed by to):
The prisoner answered to the description issued by the police.
verb (used with object)
to speak or write in response to; reply to:
to answer a person; to answer a question.
to act or move in response to:
Answer the doorbell. We answered their goal with two quick goals of our own.
to solve or present a solution of.
to serve or fulfill:
This will answer the purpose.
to discharge (a responsibility, claim, debt, etc.).
to conform or correspond to; be similar or equivalent to:
This dog answers your description.
to atone for; make amends for.
to reply or respond favorably to:
I would like to answer your request but am unable to do so.
Verb phrases
answer back, to reply impertinently or rudely:
Well-behaved children do not answer back when scolded.
answer the helm, Nautical. (of a vessel) to maneuver or remain steady according to the position of the rudder.
Origin of answer
before 900; Middle English andswerien, Old English andswerian, andswarian derivative of andswaru an answer, equivalent to and- opposite, facing (cf. and, along) + Germanic *swarō, derivative of swear
Related forms
answerer, noun
answerless, adjective
unanswered, adjective
unanswering, adjective
well-answered, adjective
1. riposte. Answer, rejoinder, reply, response, retort all mean words used to meet a question, remark, charge, etc. An answer is a return remark: an answer giving the desired information. A rejoinder is a quick, usually clever answer or remark made in reply to another's comment, not to a question. Reply usually refers to a direct or point-by-point response to a suggestion, proposal, question, or the like: a reply to a letter. A response often suggests an answer to an appeal, exhortation, etc., or an expected or fixed reply: a response to inquiry; a response in a church service. A retort implies a keen, prompt answer, especially one that turns a remark upon the person who made it: a sharp retort. 6. defense, plea. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for answer
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He was not prepared with any answer, though he hotly resented every word of her accusation.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • He did apply, and at the end of a month, no answer had been returned to his communication.

  • "I don't know," I left Anthony to answer; wondering what he would say.

    It Happened in Egypt C. N. Williamson
  • And thus, as Mr. Lovelace thought fit to take it, had he his answer from my sister.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • And if they are asked why, they answer: ‘There are three great evils in our district!’

British Dictionary definitions for answer


a reply, either spoken or written, as to a question, request, letter, or article
a reaction or response in the form of an action: drunkenness was his answer to disappointment
a solution, esp of a mathematical problem
  1. a party's written reply to his opponent's interrogatories
  2. (in divorce law) the respondent's written reply to the petition
a musical phrase that follows the subject of a fugue, reproducing it a fifth higher or a fourth lower
(when transitive, may take a clause as object) to reply or respond (to) by word or act: to answer a question, he answered, to answer the door, he answered that he would come
(transitive) to reply correctly to; solve or attempt to solve: I could answer only three questions
(intransitive) usually foll by to. to respond or react (to a stimulus, command, etc): the steering answers to the slightest touch
(transitive) to pay off (a debt, obligation, etc); discharge
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
when intr, often foll by to. to match or correspond (esp in the phrase answer (or answer to) the description)
(transitive) to give a defence or refutation of (a charge) or in (an argument)
Word Origin
Old English andswaru an answer; related to Old Frisian ondser, Old Norse andsvar; see swear
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
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Word Origin and History for answer

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with answer
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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