answer

Definitions

General English

  • noun something that you say or write when someone has asked you a question
  • noun the act of picking up a telephone that is ringing
  • verb to speak or write words to someone who has spoken to you or asked you a question

General Science

  • verb to reply or provide the solution to a question

Commerce

  • verb to speak or write after someone has spoken or written to you

Computing

Law

Politics

  • noun a reply, letter or conversation coming after someone else has written or spoken

Publishing

  • noun a reply or letter written following an order; publishers’ answers are usually computerised, and take the form of recognised abbreviations, such as RP/ND or OP

Origin & History of “answer”

Etymologically, the word answer contains the notion of making a sworn statement rebutting a charge. It comes from a prehistoric west and north Germanic compound *andswarō; the first element of this was the prefix *and- ‘against’, related to German ent- ‘away, un-’ and to Greek anti-, source of English anti-; and the second element came from the same source as English swear. In Old English, the Germanic compound became andswaru (noun) and andswarian (verb) ‘reply’, which by the 14th century had been reduced to answer.

The synonymous respond has a similar semantic history: Latin respondēre meant ‘make a solemn promise in return’, hence ‘reply’. And, as another element in the jigsaw, Swedish ansvar means ‘responsibility’ – a sense echoed by English answerable.
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