‘Let the superior answer’; the principle that an employer can be held liable for certain wrongs committed by an employee during the course of his or her employment.
In early use specifically with reference to holders of public office who were liable if their subordinates failed to satisfy the terms of a judgment.
respondeat superior/rɪˌspɒndɪat s(j)uːˈpɛrɪɔː/ /rɪˌspɒndɪat s(j)uːˈpɪərɪə/
Mid 17th century; earliest use found in Edward Coke (1552–1634), lawyer, legal writer, and politician. From post-classical Latin respondeat superior ‘let the superior answer’ from classical Latin respondeat, 3rd person singular present subjunctive of respondēre + superior.