See also: Able and -able


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Alternative formsEdit


Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English able, from Old Northern French able, variant of Old French abile, habile, from Latin habilis (easily managed, held, or handled; apt; skillful), from habeō (have, possess) +‎ -ibilis.


able (comparative abler, superlative ablest)

  1. (obsolete) Easy to use. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the mid 18th century.][1]
    • 1710, Thomas Betterton, The life of Mr. Thomas Betterton, the late eminent tragedian.:
      As the hands are the most habil parts of the body...
  2. (obsolete) Suitable; competent. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 18th century.][1]
    • 2006, Jon L. Wakelyn, America's Founding Charters: Primary Documents of Colonial and Revolutionary Era Governance, volume 1, Greenwood Publishing Group, page 212:
      [] and for every able man servant that he or she shall carry or send armed and provided as aforesaid, ninety acres of land of like measure.
  3. (obsolete, dialectal) Liable to. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).][1]
  4. Having the necessary powers or the needed resources to accomplish a task. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).][1]
  5. Free from constraints preventing completion of task; permitted to; not prevented from. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).][1]
    I’ll see you as soon as I’m able.
    With that obstacle removed, I am now able to proceed with my plan.
    I’m only able to visit you when I have other work here.
    That cliff is able to be climbed.
  6. (obsolete, dialectal) Having the physical strength; robust; healthy. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).][1]
    After the past week of forced marches, only half the men are fully able.
  7. (obsolete) Rich; well-to-do. [Attested from the mid 16th century until the late 19th century.][1]
    He was born to an able family.
  8. Gifted with skill, intelligence, knowledge, or competence. [First attested in the mid 16th century.][1]
    The chairman was also an able sailor.
    • 1625, Francis Bacon, “Of Youth and Age. XLII.”, in The Essayes [], London: [] Iohn Haviland [], published 1632, OCLC 863527675, pages 247–248:
      Natures that haue much Heat, and great and violent deſires and Perturbations, are not ripe for Action, till they haue paſſed the Meridian of their yeares: As it was with Iulius Cæſar, and Septimius Seuerus. [] And yet he [Septimus Severus] was the Ableſt Emperour, almoſt, of all the Liſt.
  9. (law) Legally qualified or competent. [First attested in the early 18th century.][1]
    He is able to practice law in six states.
  10. (nautical) Capable of performing all the requisite duties; as an able seaman. [First attested in the late 18th century.][1]
Usage notesEdit
  • In standard English, one is "able to do something". In some older texts representing various dialects, particularly Irish English, or black speech, "able for do something" is found instead, and in some Caribbean dialects "able with" is sometimes found.[2][3]
Derived termsEdit
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English ablen, from Middle English able (adjective).[4]


able (third-person singular simple present ables, present participle abling, simple past and past participle abled)

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To make ready. [Attested from around (1150 to 1350) until the late 16th century.][1]
  2. (transitive, obsolete) To make capable; to enable. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 19th century.][1]
  3. (transitive, obsolete) To dress. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 15th century.][1]
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To give power to; to reinforce; to confirm. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the mid 17th century.][1]
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To vouch for; to guarantee. [Attested from the late 16th century until the early 17th century.][1]
Derived termsEdit

Etymology 3Edit

From the first letter of the word. Suggested in the 1916 United States Army Signal Book to distinguish the letter when communicating via telephone,[5] and later adopted in other radio and telephone signal standards.


able (uncountable)

  1. (military) The letter "A" in Navy Phonetic Alphabet.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors (2002) , “able”, in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 5
  2. ^ “ABLE” in Joseph Wright, editor, The English Dialect Dictionary: [], volume I (A–C), London: Published by Henry Frowde, [], publisher to the English Dialect Society, []; New York, N.Y.: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1898, →OCLC.
  3. ^ Richard Allsopp, Jeannette Allsopp, Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage (2003), entry "able"
  4. ^ Philip Babcock Gove (editor), Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam Co., 1976 [1909], →ISBN), page 4
  5. ^ United States Army (1916) Signal Book[1], Conventional telephone signals, page 33




able m (plural ables)

  1. a vernacular name of the common bleak (usually called ablette)
  2. a vernacular name of the sunbleak or moderlieschen, also called able de Heckel
  3. (rare) a vernacular name of any of some other related fishes in the genus Alburnus (Cyprinidae)

Further readingEdit


Old FrenchEdit

Alternative formsEdit


Latin habilis.



able m (oblique and nominative feminine singular able)

  1. able; capable



  • French: habile
  • Middle Dutch: abel
  • Middle English: able, habil




able (comparative mair able, superlative maist able)

  1. able, substantial, physically fit, strong, shrewd, cute
  2. (obsolete) well-to-do, rich