When one literally translates the Dutch word betrouw-baar (dash added) one gets trust-worthy (dash added). But when one uses Google translate, it generates reliable.

Based on my experience with English, I would say trustworthy is used to characterize a human: "can you trust a human when he says something?" whereas reliable is more used to describe the state of an object, for instance "a reliable machine".

In Dutch the term is used to describe both persons and objects.

Is this correct? If not, what is the semantical difference?

3 Answers 3


If you left-click on Google Translate's English translation of betrouwbaar, you will see a drop-down selection of possible alternative translations, including reliable, trustworthy and safe.

As you have correctly observed, trustworthy is usually applied to humans; reliable can be used both for animate and inanimate entities.

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    One can be trustworthy without being reliable. For instance, I may trust that my secrets are safe with you (trustworthy), but not count on you to remember to send the package I asked you to send (reliable). IMHO trustworthy is more about one's heart being true, whereas reliable is more about one's actions matching one's promises. So I would choose the translation accordingly. Jan 4, 2015 at 4:42

reliable does not necessarily imply a promise given. one could just as easily rely on another without the other's given promise or even consent. so it would mean the other's actions matching one's expectations, desires or needs. trust is more about refraining from an intentional act that would cause harm. so, trust someone not to hurt you, but rely on someone to do something or behave in a certain manner (with or without any given consent).


The two terms are similar and capable of being interchanged in many situations without losing much nuance, but "trustworthy" is more nuanced in the way of honesty, candidness, truth, and virtue. "Reliable" can carry more connotations with respect to abilities, capabilities, and the inherent characteristics of something. It is true that "trustworthy" is more often applicable to human traits, but can still be relevant to anything that has the ability to deceive.

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