This man is able to lift this box.
An example of able is having the strength to lift a heavy box.
adjectivea′bler , a′blest
- having enough power, skill, etc. to do something: able to read
- having much power of mind; skilled; talented: an able teacher
- Law legally qualified, authorized, or competent to do a specified act
Origin of ableMiddle English from Old French hable, habile from Classical Latin habilis, easily handled, apt from habere, to have, hold: see habit
- that can or will: perishable
- capable of being ____ed: manageable
- worthy of being ____ed: lovable
- having qualities of: comfortable
- tending or inclined to: peaceable
Origin of -ableMiddle English from Old French from Classical Latin -abilis
- Having sufficient power or resources to accomplish something: a singer able to reach high notes; a detergent able to remove stains.
- Usage Problem Susceptible to action or treatment: The brakes were able to be fixed.
- Especially capable or proficient: The new programmers proved to be very able.
Origin of ableMiddle English from Old French from Latin habilis from habēre to handle ; see ghabh- in Indo-European roots.
Usage Note: The construction able to takes an infinitive to show the subject's ability to accomplish something: We were able to finish the project thanks to a grant from a large corporation. The new submarine is able to dive twice as fast as the older model. Subjects to which people don't ascribe active roles tend to sound awkward in this construction, especially in passive constructions involving forms of the verb be, as in The problem was able to be solved by using this new method. Here, the use of the passive underscores the subject's not taking an active role, while the use of able suggests the opposite, creating a conflict. In our 2005 survey, only 24 percent of the Usage Panel accepted able in a sentence like this, though 54 percent accepted the use of capable instead ( the problem was capable of being solved ), suggesting that capable is less jarring. It may be easier just to substitute can or could, which are standard: The problem could be solved by using this new method.
- Susceptible, capable, or worthy of a specified action: debatable.
- Inclined or given to a specified state or action: changeable.
Origin of -ableMiddle English from Old French from Latin -ābilis, -ibilis -ā- -i- thematic vowels -bilis adj. suff.
(comparative abler, superlative ablest)
- Having the necessary powers or the needed resources to accomplish a task. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).]
- Free from constraints preventing completion of task; permitted to; not prevented from. [First attested from around 1350 to 1470).]
- I’ll see you as soon as I’m able.
- With that obstacle removed, I am now able to proceed with my plan.
- I’m only able to visit you when I have other work here.
- That cliff is able to be climbed.
- Gifted with skill, intelligence, knowledge, or competence. [First attested in the mid 16th century.]
- The chairman was also an able sailor.
- (law) Legally qualified or competent. [First attested in the early 18th century.]
- He is able to practice law in six states.
- (nautical) Capable of performing all the requisite duties; as an able seaman. [First attested in the late 18th century.]
From Middle English, from Old Northern French able, variant of Old French abile, habile, from Latin habilis (“easily managed, held, or handled; apt; skillful”), from habeō (“have, hold”).
(third-person singular simple present ables, present participle abling, simple past and past participle abled)
- (obsolete) To make ready. [Attested from around (1150 to 1350) until the late 16th century.]
- (obsolete) To make capable; to enable. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 19th century.]
- (obsolete) To dress. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 15th century.]
- (obsolete) To give power to; to reinforce; to confirm. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the mid 17th century.]
- (obsolete) To vouch for; to guarantee. [Attested from the late 16th century until the early 17th century.]
From Middle English ablen, from Middle English able (adjective).
- A word that is used in place of the letter "A" during communication.
- An adjectival suffix; forms adjectives meaning:
- able to be; fit to be.
- movable: able to be moved
- amendable: able to be amended
- breakable: liable to broken
- blamable: fit to be blamed
- salable: fit to be sold
- relevant to or suitable to, in accordance with.
- fashionable: relevant to fashion
- seasonable: suitable to season
- giving, or inclined to.
- pleasurable: giving pleasure
- peaceable: inclined to peace
- subject to.
- reportable: subject to be reported
- taxable: subject to be taxed
- due to be.
- payable: due to pay
- able to be; fit to be.
- 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 relied on"), laughable (“suited for laughing at"), remarkable (“fit to be remarked upon"), 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.
- From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin -Äbilis, 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 -bÇ£re (“bearing, making, worth"), from Proto-Germanic *bÄ“riz, *bÄ“rijaz; and -lic (“like, having the quality of"), from Proto-Germanic *-lÄ«kaz.
- Compare German -bar, Dutch -baar.