adjective vi·a·ble \ ˈvī-ə-bəl \
|Updated on: 14 Jun 2018

Definition of viable

1 a : capable of living
  • a viable skin graft
  • viable offspring
b of a fetus : having attained such form and development of organs as to be normally capable of surviving outside the uterus
  • a 26-week old viable fetus
c : capable of growing or developing
  • viable seeds
  • viable eggs
2 a : capable of working, functioning, or developing adequately
  • viable alternatives
b : capable of existence and development as an independent unit
  • The colony is now a viable state.
c (1) : having a reasonable chance of succeeding
  • a viable candidate
(2) : financially sustainable
  • a viable enterprise


play \ˌvī-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun


play \ˈvī-ə-blē\ adverb

Examples of viable in a Sentence

  1. The departure point for a viable peace deal—either with Syria or the Palestinians—must not be based purely on what the political traffic in Israel will bear, but on the requirements of all sides. —Aaron David MillerNewsweek12 Jan. 2009
  2. As gene therapy begins to enjoy some preliminary successes, scientists at the World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees drug testing for the Olympics, have started to worry that dopers might now see abuse of gene therapy in sport as a viable option, though the practice was banned by WADA in 2003. —Patrick BarryScience News2 Aug. 2008
  3. Under today's forest management practices, few trees die natural deaths and fewer still attain the girth of the old-growth trees that supported the ivory-bill. The sad fact is that there is really no place in the United States today where a viable population of ivory-bills could persist even if captive reared birds were on hand to stock a release program. —John TerborghNew York Review of Books26 Apr. 2007
  4. To ponder [John] Updike's work in now old-fashioned sociopolitical terms, it might be said that he examines our struggle to maintain a viable center for our inner life while enduring the most revolutionary force in history—American capitalism. —Robert StoneNew York Times Book Review18 June 2006
  5. At stake is the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the Earth. Or, as one eminent scientist put it, the pending question is whether the combination of an opposable thumb and a neocortex is a viable combination on this planet. —Al GoreAn Inconvenient Truth2006
  6. When a patient agrees to forego a bed at the Portland VA—so far 75% of viable candidates have agreed to do so—a small "strike force" swings into action. The patient is sent home, typically with various medicines, oxygen tanks, and sometimes, a mobile X-ray machine. A nurse visits every day to perform tests, provide IV infusions and monitor medications. As a backup, a physician is on 24-hour standby for emergencies. —Gautam NaikWall Street Journal19 Apr. 2006
  7. Another truth is that corks expire with age. A few wineries recognize that fact and recork their library wines every 25 years or so, but that's not a viable process for most collectors. —James LaubeWine Spectator31 Mar. 2005
  8. a viable solution to the problem

  9. He could not suggest a viable alternative.

  10. Is she a viable candidate?

Recent Examples of viable from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of viable

French, from Middle French, from vie life, from Latin vita — more at vital

VIABLE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of viable for English Language Learners

  • : capable of being done or used

  • : capable of succeeding

  • : capable of living or of developing into a living thing

VIABLE Defined for Kids


adjective vi·a·ble \ ˈvī-ə-bəl \

Definition of viable for Students

1 : capable of living or growing
  • viable seeds
2 : possible to use or apply
  • a viable plan

Medical Dictionary


adjective vi·a·ble \ ˈvī-ə-bəl \

medical Definition of viable

1 : capable of living
  • the skin graft was viable
  • viable cancer cells
; especially : having attained such form and development as to be normally capable of surviving outside the uterus
  • a 26-week old viable fetus
2 : capable of growing or developing
  • viable eggs

Seen and Heard

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to emit the high shrill tone of bagpipes

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