Account for (someone or something) – Definition & Meaning


The phrase “account for (someone or something)” is commonly used in the English language, but what does it actually mean? In this article, we will explore the definition and meaning of this phrase, its origins, and its use in different contexts.


To account for someone or something means to give a satisfactory explanation or justification for their actions or whereabouts. It can also mean to take responsibility for someone or something, or to make sure that they are safe and accounted for.


The origin of the phrase “account for” can be traced back to the 14th century, where it was used in accounting and bookkeeping to refer to the process of keeping track of financial transactions. Over time, the phrase evolved to take on a broader meaning and is now commonly used in everyday language.

Meaning in different dictionaries

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to account for someone or something means to “explain or justify the existence or presence of something.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “to give a satisfactory reason for something.” The Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “to be the explanation or cause of something.”


The phrase “account for” is often associated with taking responsibility for someone or something. For example, a parent might ask their child to “account for” their whereabouts if they were out late at night. It can also be used in a more formal context, such as in a business setting, where someone might be asked to “account for” their expenses or actions.


Some synonyms for “account for” include explain, justify, clarify, rationalize, and reconcile. These words all convey the idea of providing a satisfactory explanation or reason for something.


Antonyms for “account for” might include ignore, overlook, neglect, or disregard. These words suggest a lack of concern or responsibility for someone or something.

The same root words

The phrase “account for” is derived from the Middle English word “accounten,” which means to count or reckon. The root word “account” is also used in other phrases and idioms, such as “on account of” (because of) and “give an account of” (to report or describe).

Example Sentences

  1. The police officer asked the suspect to account for his whereabouts on the night of the crime.
  2. The accountant needed to account for all of the company’s expenses in her report.
  3. The teacher asked the student to account for why he had not completed his homework.
  4. The manager was held accountable for the mistakes made by his team.
  5. The parents wanted to make sure that their children were accounted for before leaving the amusement park.

In conclusion, the phrase “account for (someone or something)” is a common expression in the English language, used to convey the idea of providing a satisfactory explanation or taking responsibility for someone or something. Its origins can be traced back to accounting and bookkeeping, but it has since evolved to be used in a variety of contexts. Understanding the meaning and usage of this phrase can help to improve communication and clarity in everyday conversations.

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