Consider the following template:

A accounts for B.

Let A and B be “the bad weather” and “the delay.”

The bad weather accounts for the delay.

It roughly means that the bad weather was responsible for or caused the delay, and it is according to the first definition in Oxford Learner’s Dictionary.

Now let A and B be “the plan” and “bad weather”:

The plan accounts for bad weather.

Intuitively, it means that the plan takes the possibility of bad weather into consideration. However, I cannot find a definition in Oxford Learner’s Dictionary that would fit this interpretation. I would be grateful if somebody could provide a reference for it.


Thanks to ColleenV, one instance of the to-take-into-consideration-or-account meaning has been found. It’s in Merriam-Webster at the very bottom on the page about account.

1 : to take into consideration. She didn’t account for extra costs.

They also have a page about account for, but there is nothing mentioned there.

ColleenV also pointed at OneLook, which aggregates definitions from multiple dictionaries. I’ve gone through all of them and haven’t found any other trace of this particular meaning.

My question is now, isn’t it suspicious that this definition appears only in one dictionary where it’s almost hidden? Does anybody have another reliable reference that clearly states that to account for means to take into consideration/account?

  • 3
    Sometimes learner's dictionaries don't have every sense of the word, jus the most common. The Merriam-Webster definition for account includes "to take into consideration" as a definition of "account for": She didn't account for extra costs.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 19:10
  • Gosh! I was looking for it really hard but failed. Thanks a lot! I should probably then switch to Merriam-Webster, as it seems to be more complete.
    – Ivan
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 19:38
  • 2
    It's always best to check a couple of different dictionaries when the first place you looked was confusing. I like The Free Dictionary and OneLook because they combine the entries from several different dictionaries in one search result.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 21:37
  • @ColleenV, thanks for OneLook! I’ve updated my question. The search continues.
    – Ivan
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 5:08
  • 1
    I have to say that I found it quite odd that so many dictionaries don't have the "take into consideration" sense of "account for"... maybe in that sense it isn't widely held to be a phrasal verb?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 11:42

1 Answer 1


I believe that is exactly what it means. I did some research and found 4 definitions on "to account for" expression

1 : to give a reason or explanation for (something) How do you account for your success?

2 : to be the cause of (something) These new features account for the computer's higher price.

3 : to make up or form (a part of something) Women account for only 25 percent of our employees.

4 US : to think about (something) before doing something : to take (something) into consideration

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