Word Confusion: Liable versus Likely

Posted July 28, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 5 September 2017

It’s likely that you’ll be liable for the images you use in your books. It’s one reason I’m more likely to use Wikimedia Commons images with a Creative Commons license for the visual examples in my posts.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Liable Likely
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Flooding at Navarre Beach

“Flooding Due to Katrina at Navarre Beach” by Marvin Nauman is from the FEMA Photo Library and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Low-lying areas are liable to flooding.

The Picnic. Signed G.G.Kilburne. Watercolour heightened with touches of white, 66.5 x 110 cm

“The Picnic” is a watercolor by George Goodwin Kilburne and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A likely spot for a picnic!

Part of Grammar:
Adjective Adjective; Adverb
Responsible by law

  • Legally answerable

Likely to do or to be something

  • [Liable to] Likely to experience something undesirable
  • Apt



Such as well might happen or be true

  • Probable

Apparently suitable

  • Promising


The supplier of goods or services can become liable for breach of contract in a variety of ways.

Patients were liable to faint if they stood up too suddenly.

A number of areas in New Orleans are liable to flooding.

When one is self-employed, one’s income is liable to fluctuate wildly.

In law, a person is legally liable when he/she is financially and legally responsible for something.

He’s liable to get angry.

Our family is liable to cancers and depression.

The likely effects of the drought on sugar beet yields are grim.

It was likely that he would make a televised statement to explain his part in the raid.

Sales are likely to drop further.

This is a likely-looking spot.

That’s a likely story, Ollie.

The most likely result is that nothing will happen.

We will most likely go to a bar.

As likely as not, we’ll have to go to your mother’s.

I won’t take their pills because as likely as not they’d poison me.

“Are you going home?” “Not likely!”

Adjective: likelier, likeliest, unlikelier, unlikeliest
Adverb: unlikely
Noun: likelihood, likeliness, unlikelihood, unlikeliness
History of the Word:
Late Middle English and is perhaps from the Anglo-Norman French, from the French lier meaning to bind, from the Latin ligare. Middle English is from the Old Norse líkligr, from líkr.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

Boot of Beer assumed to be by Colinandamy~commonswiki (based on copyright claims). It is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.