synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples & translations of able in English

English Online Dictionary. What means able‎? What does able mean?


Alternative forms

  • (obsolete) hable


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈeɪ.bl̩/, /ˈeɪ.bəl/
  • Rhymes: -eɪbəl
  • Homophone: Abel

Etymology 1

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.]
  2. (obsolete) Suitable; competent. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 18th century.]
  3. (obsolete, dialectal) Liable to. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).]
  4. Having the necessary powers or the needed resources to accomplish a task. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).]
  5. Free from constraints preventing completion of task; permitted to; not prevented from. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).]
  6. (obsolete, dialectal) Having the physical strength; robust; healthy. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).]
  7. (obsolete) Rich; well-to-do. [Attested from the mid 16th century until the late 19th century.]
  8. Gifted with skill, intelligence, knowledge, or competence. [First attested in the mid 16th century.]
  9. (law) Legally qualified or competent. [First attested in the early 18th century.]
  10. (nautical) Capable of performing all the requisite duties; as an able seaman. [First attested in the late 18th century.]
Usage notes
  • 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.
  • See also Thesaurus:skillful
Derived terms

Etymology 2

From Middle English ablen, from Middle English able (adjective).


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

Etymology 3

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


able (uncountable)

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



  • Abel, Bale, Beal, Blea, Ebla, Elba, albe, bael, bale, beal, blea



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 reading

  • “able” in Trésor de la langue française informatisé (The Digitized Treasury of the French Language).


  • Abel, Bâle, béal, bêla

Old French

Alternative forms

  • abile
  • abille
  • habile


Latin habilis.


  • IPA(key): /ˈa.blə/


able m (oblique and nominative feminine singular able)

  1. able; capable



  • English: able
  • French: habile (from habile)



  • IPA(key): /ebl/
  • (South Scots) IPA(key): /jɪbl/


able (comparative mair able, superlative maist able)

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

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