adjective \ ˈā-bəl \
|Updated on: 5 Jul 2018

Definition of able

1 a : 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 play \-b(ə-)lər\; ablest play \-b(ə-)ləst\ : marked by intelligence, knowledge, skill, or competence
  • an able administrator


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

Examples of able in a Sentence

  1. He will buy a new car as soon as he is able.

  2. He turned out to be an able editor.

  3. She is one of the ablest lawyers in the firm.

Recent Examples of able from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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 1give


adjective suffix
variants: or less commonly -ible

Definition of -able

1 : capable of, fit for, or worthy of (being so acted upon or toward) chiefly in adjectives derived from verbs
  • breakable
  • collectible
2 : tending, given, or liable to
  • agreeable
  • perishable


or less commonly -ibly adverb suffix

Origin and Etymology of -able

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)

ABLE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of -able for English Language Learners

  • : fit for or worthy of being

  • : likely to or capable of

  • : having a certain quality

ABLE Defined for Kids


adjective \ ˈā-bəl \

Definition of able for Students

abler \-blər\; ablest \-bləst\
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

Synonym Discussion of 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.


adjective suffix
variants: also -ible \ə-bəl\

Definition of -able for Students

1 : capable of, fit for, or worthy of being
  • lovable
  • flexible
2 : tending or likely to
  • changeable


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

Law Dictionary



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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a simultaneous discharge of guns

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