: incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred
The American ethos is built on the belief that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights.
"'Downward Dog' … goes a particularly funny step further by reflecting another truism: People are dogs, too. We also have complicated emotional lives, further complicated by our professional ones. We also seek food. We also seek love. We obsess.… [T]his terrific series works—because it abides by these simple, inalienable truths." — Verne Gay, Newsday, 13 May 2017
Did You Know?
Alien, alienable, inalienable—it's easy enough to see the Latin word alius, meaning "other," at the root of these three words. Alien joined our language in the 14th century, and one of its earliest meanings was "belonging to another." By the early 1600s that sense of alien had led to alienable, an adjective describing something you can give away or transfer to another owner. The word unalienable came about as its opposite, but so did inalienable, a word most likely borrowed into English on its own from French. Inalienable is the more common form today, and although we often see both forms used to modify "rights," it was unalienable that was used in the Declaration of Independence to describe life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
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