• -able

    Pronunciation

    • US IPA: /ə.bl̩/

    Alternative forms

    Origin

    • From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin -ābilis, from -a- or -i- + bilis ("capable or worthy of being acted upon").
    • Not closely related etymologically, though currently related semantically, to able.
    • Replaced native Old English -bǣre ("bearing, making, worth"), from Proto-Germanic *bēriz, *bērijaz; and -lic ("like, having the quality of"), from Proto-Germanic *-līkaz.
    • Compare German -bar, Dutch -baar.

    Full definition of -able

    Suffix

    1. An adjectival suffix; forms adjectives meaning:
      1. able to be done; fit to be done.movable: able to be movedamendable: able to be amendedbreakable: liable to brokenblamable: fit to be blamedsalable: fit to be sold
      2. relevant to or suitable to, in accordance with.fashionable: relevant to fashionseasonable: suitable to season
      3. giving, or inclined to.pleasurable: giving pleasurepeaceable: inclined to peace
      4. subject to.reportable: subject to be reportedtaxable: subject to be taxed
      5. due to be.payable: due to pay

    Usage notes

    Originally used only on French and Latin words, like separable. Over time -able was added to stems of English verbs ending in -ate, such as educable. Finally, due to probable confusion with the word able, it was used to form adjectives from all sorts of verbs, nouns, and even verb phrases, such as kickable, get-at-able, and clubbable.

    While a terminal silent -e is usually dropped when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel, which is followed by -able, the -e is not dropped when adding -able if the root ends with a soft -ce and -ge, as in replaceable and changeable, so that these are not misinterpreted as hard ‘c’ or ‘g’ sounds. This same rule is used for -ous, as in courageous.

    As when adding the suffix -ed, a final consonant of a root should be doubled if the preceding vowel is short and (in British English) stressed.

    The form -ible has the same senses and pronunciation. The choice between the two is somewhat idiosyncratic, but in general, -ible is used in forms derived from Latin verbs of the second, third, and fourth conjugations, and in a few words whose roots end in a soft c or g, while -able is used in all other such words, particularly those formed from Latin verbs of the first conjugation and those that come from French or from Anglo-Saxon (Old English). Fowler's English Usage recommends using -ible for simplicity's sake in any word whose root ends in a soft c or g to avoid -eable (e.g., *changible rather than changeable), but this recommendation has generally not been followed.

    A number of adjectives in -able come from verbs that do not have direct objects, but that rather are construed with prepositions. In these cases, the preposition does not appear with the adjective in -able; hence, reliable ("fit to being rely"), laughable ("suited for laugh"), remarkable ("fit to be remark"), and so on.

    Traditionally, verbs ending in -ate drop this suffix before adding -able; hence, communicable ("able to be communicated"), eradicable ("possible to eradicate"), implacable ("unable to be placated"), inimitable ("unable to imitated"), and so on, but relatable, because relate is re- + -late, not rel- + -ate.

    There are cases where a word with un- -able is much more common than one with just -able, such as unbreakable, unsinkable, and untouchable.

    Derived terms

    Related terms

    © Wiktionary