Share this entry

able Line breaks: able
Pronunciation: /ˈeɪb(ə)l/

Definition of able in English:

adjective (abler, ablest)

1 [with infinitive] Having the power, skill, means, or opportunity to do something: he was able to read Greek at the age of eight they would never be able to afford such a big house
More example sentences
  • When you add in council tax and other bills we know we wouldn't be able to afford that.
  • The morning journey was relaxing and I was able to read a lot that will help me at work.
  • Participants do not need to be able to read music or to have sung with a choir before.
2Having considerable skill, proficiency, or intelligence: the dancers were technically very able
More example sentences
  • Born into a noble family, Neroccio was one of the most able artists of late 15th-century Siena.
  • Abler students would do well to supplement Post's book with Bell's ‘Elizabethan Women and Poetry of Courtship’.
  • Two of the abler young novelists of the time, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, were converts to Roman Catholicism.


Late Middle English (also in the sense 'easy to use, suitable'): from Old French hable, from Latin habilis 'handy', from habere 'to hold'.

  • In the past able had the senses ‘easy to use’ and ‘suitable’ as well as the more familiar sense ‘having the qualifications or means’ to do something. It comes from Latin habilis ‘handy’ from habere ‘to hold’. The jargon term abled, as in differently abled was formed in the 1980s from disabled (late 16th century), from able with the negative dis- in front.

Words that rhyme with able

Abel, Babel, cable, enable, fable, gable, label, Mabel, sable, stable, table

Definition of able in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day coiffeur
Pronunciation: kwɑːˈfəː
a hairdresser