33 incredible words ending in -ible and -able
As the UK begins negotiations, a Cabinet group styling themselves the ‘sensibles’ are pushing for a softer – and what they deem more sensible – Brexit. Turning adjectives ending in -ible and -able into pluralized nouns is a long-running habit of English, though, reaching back to the early 1400s and spanning food, fashion, and finance. Here’s over 30 examples of these linguistic, er, delectables:
In the 2016 US election, Hillary Clinton notoriously “put half of Trump’s supporters into…the basket of deplorables,” a label many of his diehard backers embraced.
In traditional Indian culture, the untouchables were members of the lowest caste, or outside the system altogether, contact with whom was considered defiling. The term became illegal, however, in India in 1949, Pakistan in 1953.
Evidenced since 1661, an edible is a food item, though more recently referring to edible cannabis products. Eatables (1680s) and comestibles (1799) are similar constructions, with snackable munchables (1980) a more modern variant that in part inspired the US ready-to-eat kids’ meals, Lunchables, launched in 1988.
In the early 1400s, vegetable described an organism that vegetated, or could grow like a plant. Since at least the early 1700s, though, we’ve been using vegetable primarily as a noun for the produce we all ought to be eating more of. Of persons, a vegetable was first a dull, inactive person (1641) long before disparaging someone with brain damage.
We’ve been minding our valuables, or small personal property of some worth and import, since the early 1700s, around the same time as portables, personal belongings repurposed more recently for electronic devices like laptops.
We’ve been seeking out rare, unusual, and interesting collectibles since at least the 1950s.
And we’ve been putting the roof down on convertibles, since 1916.
This euphemism for ‘underpants’, especially ladies’, was originally a substitute for ‘breeches’ or ‘trousers’ in the 1790s. Other humorous ‘trousers’ euphemism included inexpressibles, ineffables, and inexplicables, all exaggerating a taboo of undergarments – sorry, unmentionables.
Since the 1950s, we’ve been tossing our washables in the washing machine, unharmed as they are by the technology.
First referring to an article of clothing in the early 1700s, wearables now describe technology you can wear, such as smart watches or fitness trackers.
Back in the mid-1500s, fabric whose color changed in different lights or angles were called changeables, though the term later named fickle folk.
In the 1800s, people who kept up with the latest trends were called fashionables.
Though first (1680s) naming something that cannot be done without, indispensables doubled as a type of small ladies’ satchel in the 1800s.
1540, horribles were used to denote someone or something causing great fear.
Similarly, terribles, dating from 1606, referred to someone or something, usually death, inspiring great dread.
In 1770, respectables were people considered worthy of esteem.
And from 1813, first used in a letter from Lord Byron, marriageables were people suitable or desirable for matrimony.
Around 1863, a dependable thing, animal, or person, often used in the nickname ‘Old Reliable’ in the US.
Since the 1670s, agreeables have been pleasant things or people, in contrast to disagreeables (1780s).
And since 1652, incurables have outcasted people suffering from incurable diseases.
One of the earliest instances of a pluralized -able is movables, dated to 1428 as a legal term for personal property, which can be moved, as opposed to fixed property like land or houses.
These are another legal term for goods that are fungible, that is, replaceable, like one pound or kilogram of wheat is interchangeable with another.
Going back to the 1940s, deliverables are goods or services that a business can provide, such as a report, product, or training programme.
Payables include money that a business owes, e.g., debt, payroll, or taxes.
Familiar to North American English speakers since the 1920s, an insured person must pay a deductible before the insurer covers the rest of the claim.
In algebra, as in life, we try to figure out all the variables, or quantities that vary in value (1816). Incredibles Since 1610, incredibles are things defying belief – and in Pixar’s cinematic hands, The Incredibles are a family of superheroes.
Life’s great intangibles (1914) can include values, rights, or attitudes. Intangibles now especially refers to desirable attributes (work ethic, leadership, spirit) of athletes. Tangibles, meanwhile, first used by William James in 1890, can be touched and handled.
For more on words ending in -ible and -able and how they are used as adjectives, check out our spelling section.