\ ˈā-bəl \

Definition of able 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : having sufficient power, skill, or resources to do something able to solve a problem

b : having the freedom or opportunity to do something hopes to be able to visit soon

c : having a quality or nature that makes something possible a car able to hold five people : susceptible to some action or treatment a shoe able to be repaired

2 abler\-b(ə-)lər \; ablest\-b(ə-)ləst \ : marked by intelligence, knowledge, skill, or competence an able administrator

variants: or less commonly -ible

Definition of -able (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : capable of, fit for, or worthy of (being so acted upon or toward) chiefly in adjectives derived from verbs breakablecollectible

2 : tending, given, or liable to agreeable perishable

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Other words from able


ably \ˈā-b(ə-)lē \ adverb
a task performed ably

Adjective suffix

-ably or less commonly -ibly adverb suffix

Synonyms & Antonyms for able

Synonyms: Adjective

capable, competent, equal, fit, good, qualified, suitable

Antonyms: Adjective

incompetent, inept, poor, unfit, unfitted, unqualified

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Choose the Right Synonym for able


able and capable mean having the power to do or accomplish. able may be used for someone who has exceptional skill and has done well in the past. She is an able surgeon with years of experience. capable is usually used to describe someone who has the characteristics suitable for a particular kind of work. The recruits soon proved to be capable soldiers.

Examples of able in a Sentence


He will buy a new car as soon as he is able. He turned out to be an able editor. She is one of the ablest lawyers in the firm.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Zoo visitors will be able to get a glimpse of Jane in a couple of weeks at the Great Apes of Harambee habitat. Tanya Wildt, Detroit Free Press, "Baby chimpanzee born at Detroit Zoo on World Chimpanzee Day," 14 July 2018 Lee’s been decorating cakes ever since and was able to get jobs at grocery store bakeries with her skills. Leah Asmelash, charlotteobserver, "How one woman wants to help foster care youth, and it involves cake," 12 July 2018 But there was only person on the list who clearly might be able to help Trump out if his personal legal predicaments wind up before the Supreme Court – and in a funny coincidence, Brett Kavanaugh wound up being the nominee! Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, "How Picking Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court Could Benefit Trump Personally," 10 July 2018 There were a lot of different exercises I wasn’t allowed to do, wasn’t able to do, just to protect the Achilles. Eduardo A. Encina,, "As Orioles work to trade closer Zach Britton, he's showing suitors he's only getting better," 14 July 2018 But some women artists weren’t able to take advantage of the center’s programs, according to Martin. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Unprecedented Billboard Campaign Puts Spotlight on Indigenous Artists in Canada," 13 July 2018 Salas, 22, who chose to speak for the family, said that the ACA protections are a particular financial relief, given that both Salas’ brother and his mother, formerly a pediatric nurse, aren’t able to work due to their conditions. Austin Horn, San Antonio Express-News, "With ACA under attack, a family racked by illness wonders what will happen to their health coverage," 13 July 2018 Brandon Klein, 23 of Orlando, wasn’t able to stop his Chevrolet pickup truck in time and hit the pedestrians. Ryan Gillespie,, "3 pedestrians hit by driver in Apopka, troopers say," 12 July 2018 Due to the age difference, Keith wasn’t able to be physically present as his two younger siblings started coming into their own on and off the court. Peter Dawson, star-telegram, "First family of Fort Worth basketball still shining after careers at TCU, Kansas," 12 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'able.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of able


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for able


Middle English able, abill, borrowed from Anglo-French, going back to Latin habilis "easily handled or adjusted, adaptable," from habēre "to have, hold" + -ilis, alteration (by haplology before labial consonants) of -ibilis -ible — more at give entry 1

Adjective suffix

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French and Middle French, going back to Latin -ābilis, -ibilis, from -ā-, -i- (thematic vowels of various conjugations of verbs) + -bilis "capable (of acting) or worthy of (being acted upon)," going back to pre-Latin *-dhl-is, adjective suffix formed from the instrumental noun suffix *-dhl-om (whence Latin -bulum)

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Dictionary Entries near able






able-bodied seaman


Statistics for able

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for able

The first known use of able was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for able

English Language Learners Definition of -able

: fit for or worthy of being

: likely to or capable of

: having a certain quality


\ ˈā-bəl \
abler\-blər \; ablest\-bləst \

Kids Definition of able

1 : having enough power, resources, or skill to do something Are you able to swim?

2 : having the freedom or opportunity to do something I'll come when I'm able.

3 : having or showing much skill an able dancer

variants: also -ible \ə-bəl \

Kids Definition of -able

1 : capable of, fit for, or worthy of being lovable flexible

2 : tending or likely to changeable

Other words from able

-ably also -ibly \ə-blē \ adverb suffix adorably



Legal Definition of able 

1 : possessed of needed powers or of needed resources to accomplish an objective able to perform under the contract

2 : having freedom from restriction or obligation or from conditions preventing an action able to vote

3 : legally qualified : possessed of legal competence able to inherit property

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Comments on able

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