trac·​ta·​ble ˈtrak-tə-bəl How to pronounce tractable (audio)
: capable of being easily led, taught, or controlled : docile
a tractable horse
: easily handled, managed, or wrought : malleable
tractability noun
tractableness noun
tractably adverb

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Docile, obedient, and amenable are synonyms of tractable, but those four words have slightly different shades of meaning. Tractable describes an individual whose character permits easy handling, while docile implies a predisposition to submit readily to authority. Obedient is often used to describe compliance with authority, although that compliance is not necessarily offered eagerly. Amenable, on the other hand, is usually used when someone cooperates out of a desire to be agreeable. Tractable dates from the early 16th century and derives from the Latin verb tractare ("to handle" or "to treat"). Despite the resemblance, this root did not give us the noun tractor or verbs such as contract or attract—those all derive from a loosely related Latin verb trahere ("to draw or pull").

Choose the Right Synonym for tractable

obedient, docile, tractable, amenable mean submissive to the will of another.

obedient implies compliance with the demands or requests of one in authority.

obedient to the government

docile implies a predisposition to submit readily to control or guidance.

a docile child

tractable suggests having a character that permits easy handling or managing.

tractable animals

amenable suggests a willingness to yield or cooperate because of a desire to be agreeable or because of a natural open-mindedness.

amenable to new ideas

Examples of tractable in a Sentence

This new approach should make the problem more tractable. He's a very tractable child.
Recent Examples on the Web Like James’s governess, Christine becomes an author of sorts through her attempts to understand a situation that isn’t, in the end, all that tractable. Joanna Biggs, Harper's Magazine, 10 Jan. 2024 This all makes for a very promising step toward a tractable system to study primate embryogenesis, but the techniques are far from perfect. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, 1 June 2023 This question was made more mathematically tractable by Simon Laplace. Sourav Goswami, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 The risks identified are tethered to tractable and compounding risks. TIME, 24 Oct. 2023 Engine, Transmission, and Performance The Camaro's 650-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 is a well-behaved and tractable engine that makes power all over the rev range. Austin Irwin, Car and Driver, 6 June 2023 There is a real tension emerging between environmentalists who are very concerned about the problems associated with the renewable-energy transition and those who see those issues as minor and tractable compared with the ongoing disaster that is the fossil-fuel economy. Emma Marris, The Atlantic, 13 July 2022 Notwithstanding all of this new inventory, however, a lot of the long-term drivers behind Palm Beach’s supply crisis aren’t easily tractable—which other similarly tight and tony zip codes in Silicon Valley, Long Island, and Los Angeles could learn from. Peter Lane Taylor, Forbes, 22 Apr. 2022 Memmo will develop a unified yet tractable approach to motion generation for complex robots with arms and legs. IEEE Spectrum, 1 May 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tractable.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin tractabilis, from tractare to handle, treat

First Known Use

1502, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tractable was in 1502


Dictionary Entries Near tractable

Cite this Entry

“Tractable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


trac·​ta·​ble ˈtrak-tə-bəl How to pronounce tractable (audio)
: easily led, taught, or controlled
a tractable horse

More from Merriam-Webster on tractable

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