Difference Between Guilty and Liable

There are several confusing terminologies in the English language. Such words appear extraordinarily alike to one another. However, in reality, they have stark differences. The words guilty and liable are one such pair of confusing words. While both the words are adjectives and have practical applications in a legal sense, they vary from each other in meaning and uses. 

Guilty vs Liable 

The main difference between guilty and liable is that while the word guilty may be used concerning criminal cases, the word liable is used concerning civil cases. For instance, while an individual may be charged guilty for murdering someone, he may be liable to pay a fine for violating certain state laws. 

Guilty and Liable 2

The word guilty means responsible for specified wrongdoing. For instance, Albert was found guilty of manslaughter. The word guilty may also mean conscious of or affected by a feeling of guilt. For example, Lily felt guilty about the way she treated her husband.

The word liable means legally answerable or responsible. For instance, the communications company is liable for any breach of contract. The word liable may also mean likely to do or to be something. For example, children are liable to get sick if they don’t maintain their hygiene. There are several interpretations of the word liable.  

Comparison Table Between Guilty and Liable 

Parameters of ComparisonGuilty Liable 
Meaning The word guilty refers to a dishonest act. The word liable refers to being bound or obliged by law or equity. 
OriginThe word guilty originates from the Old English word gylt, meaning offense. The word liable originates from the French word lier, meaning to bind and from the Latin word ligare.
Year of Use The word guilty was in common use even before the year 1000. The word liable came into use from the 1600 onwards. 
Synonyms Synonyms of guilty are shamefaced, illicit, felonious, nefarious, culpable, accusable, and chargeable. Some synonyms of liable are accountable, answerable, susceptible, vulnerable, and sensitive. 
Antonyms Antonyms of guilty are moral, truthful, sinless, and innocent. Some antonyms of liable are unaccountable, insusceptible, unexposed, and invulnerable.

What is Guilty?

By definition, the word guilty means justly chargeable with or responsible for a usually grave breach of conduct or a crime. For example, Jonathan pleaded guilty to murder or Raven is guilty of lying to his school teacher. When an individual is found guilty, it implies that the jury has officially decided that he has committed a crime. 

The word guilty also refers to suggesting or involving guilt. For example, the children exchanged guilty looks upon being scolded by the teacher for talking. In addition, guilty may refer to a sense of blameful feeling in an individual. For instance, Rob felt guilty for helping Shanice in her term examinations. The word guilty serves as an adjective and an adverb.

The synonyms of guilty are ashamed, shamed, shamefaced, illicit, felonious, nefarious, culpable, accusable, remorseful, sorry, convertible, and chargeable. In contrast, some antonyms for guilty are moral, truthful, sinless, innocent, and immune. The word guilty came into use even before the advent of the 12th century. 

Some phrases including guilty are as guilty as sin and guilty as charged. The word guilty originates from the Old English word gylt, meaning offence. While guiltily is an adverb, guiltiness is a noun. The comparative and superlative degree of the word guilty is guiltier and guiltiest. In the legal sense, the opposite of guilty is innocent. To conclude, the word guilty has several connotations.  

What is Liable?

By definition, the word liable means obligated according to law or equity. For instance, Peter Thompsons was liable for the debts incurred by his wife. Another example is the transportation company is liable for any breach of contract. Another meaning of liable is subject to appropriation or attachment. For example, Michael is liable to pay his pending taxes to the Government. 

The word liable may connote being in a position to incur something. For instance, every individual who breaks the traffic light rules is liable to pay a fine or patients are liable to faint if they stood up too suddenly. Some synonyms of liable are accountable, answerable, responsible, subject to, susceptible, vulnerable, sensitive, and open. 

Some antonyms of liable are exempt, unaccountable, insusceptible, unexposed, and invulnerable. The word liable came into extensive use from the 15th century onwards. Liable may also refer to being in a situation wherein one is likely to meet with harm. For instance, Uncle Jack is liable to get malaria because of the dirty surroundings he lives in. 

The word liable originates from the French word lier, meaning to bind and from the Latin word ligare. A less known translation of liable may be towards meaning likely or apt. Thus, the word liable serves several different meanings.  

Main Differences Between Guilty and Liable 

  1. While the word guilty means legally judged an offender, the word liable means legally obligated or accountable. 
  2. Legally, an individual can be held guilty in a lawsuit, even though he may not be found guilty of the crime committed.  
  3. A general meaning of the word guilty is feeling bad for wrongdoing. In contrast, an alternative meaning of liable is susceptible to or exposed. 
  4. In a legal sense, the word guilty is used in relation to criminal cases. In contrast, the word liable is used in relation to civil cases.
  5. An example of the word guilty in a sentence is Emily was guilty of cheating on her partner. An example of the word liable in a sentence is people who disobey the government laws are liable to be punished. 

Conclusion

Thus, the words guilty and liable vary on several grounds, including origin, start year, meaning, synonyms, and antonyms. While the word guilty may carry a legal sense, the word liable has a more general connotation referring to obligations towards the laws or the community. 

An example of the word guilty in a sentence is Jack felt guilty for cheating in the examinations. An example of the word liable in a sentence is every individual is liable for the damage caused by their actions. To conclude, the words liable and guilty have several points of difference. 

References

  1. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/guilty 
  2. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/liable 
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