Example 1:

He questions the coherence and purpose of departmental majors, describes programs of study abroad as little more than recreational excursions, criticizes lecturers for their indifference to whether students learn anything, and, in general, holds faculty accountable for ignoring research about which teaching methods are most effective.

which is from Bok, D.: Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More. (New Edition) (eBook and Paperback):

Example 2:

Public officials can finally be held accountable for their actions

which is from accountable definition | English dictionary for learners | Reverso:

I am not sure what the meanings of hold in these two examples are

I look up the dictionary

16 [transitive] to have a belief or an opinion about somebody/something

hold somebody/something + adv./prep./adj.

She is held in high regard by her students (= they have a high opinion of her).

Does it explain the meaning of hold in those two examples correctly?


  • 1
    Did you see definition 17? "[transitive] (formal) to consider that something is true" "hold somebody/something + adj." Parents will be held responsible for their children's behaviour Jun 24, 2016 at 12:41
  • Wow, thank you. I didn't see it until now. definition 17 explains perfectly! Jun 24, 2016 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


These are idioms. I do not believe trying to choose a definition of hold will be helpful. We must consider the entire expression.

hold someone accountable (for something)
to consider someone responsible for something; to blame something on someone

So in 1., "he" considers faculty responsible for "ignoring research about which teaching methods are most effective".

In 2., presumably, the public can finally consider the public officials responsible for their actions. There is an implication that there will be consequences for their past or future actions. So another way to interpret 2. is that that the public will blame the public officials if there are problems, and the public officials will face consequences.

To hold someone in high regard is another idiom. It means what you wrote: "have a high opinion of her".

  • 1
    I'm not really sure this is an idiom - you can hold someone accountable, hold them responsible, hold them in high regard, hold someone in contempt, etc. I think it's just definition 7a: to think of in a particular way.
    – stangdon
    Jun 23, 2016 at 21:28
  • I wasn't sure either. But I found it under idioms on that site. So that is how I reported it. Further, I thought it was much better to understand it as a fixed expression rather than try to decipher what hold means here, at least for "hold accountable". It's like if a learner read "jumped the shark" and asked what does "jumped" mean here, or worse, what does "shark" mean here.
    – Em.
    Jun 23, 2016 at 21:35
  • I forgot to mention references. Both are from different dictionaries. I agree with @probablyme that it is a better way to understand the meaning of a phrase as a whole. For example, catch 22 is a phrase, looking up the dictionary, there would be a single entry explaining the meaning of it. Catch-22 In some cases, like this one, after knowing the meaning of accountable in the context, anaylitical skill would be helpful to understand the meaning of hold here. Jun 24, 2016 at 10:19

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