unable [uhn-ey-buh l] SynonymsExamplesWord Origin See more synonyms for unable on Thesaurus.com adjective

  1. lacking the necessary power, competence, etc., to accomplish some specified act: He was unable to swim.

Origin of unable Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at un-1, able Synonyms for unable See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.comSee incapable. Related Words for unable weak, impotent, unfit, incapable, inadequate, helpless, powerless, clumsy, incapacitated, incompetent, ineffectual, inefficacious, inefficient, inept, inoperative, unqualified, unskilled, impuissant, unfitted Examples from the Web for unable Contemporary Examples of unable

  • That man was Xavier Cortada, a gay man who wrote of his frustration that he and his partner of eight years were unable to marry.

    Jeb Bush’s Unseen Anti-Gay Marriage Emails

    Jackie Kucinich

    January 9, 2015

  • Those opposing same-sex marriage are on their heels, and increasingly unwilling or unable to make a stand against it.

    ‘Only God’ Can Stop Gay Marriage

    Tim Mak

    January 6, 2015

  • But at this stage, he is either afraid or unable to get carried away by his thoughts.

    The Lost Novel of Nobel-Winner José Saramago

    Charles Shafaieh

    January 5, 2015

  • Lee would stay up late, unable to sleep from the pains he had in his back.

    The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile

    Robert Ward

    January 3, 2015

  • In the name of protecting passengers, however, tourists in Las Vegas are unable to take advantage of this service.

    Why Do ‘Progressives’ Want to Ban Uber and AirBnB?

    Adam Thierer, Christopher Koopman

    December 30, 2014

  • Historical Examples of unable

  • Still he reflected that he would be unable to get out, and in the morning he could go for the constable.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • That he was unable to do, even if it were true, which he doubted.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • All this had happened so quickly that Will was unable to hinder it.

    The Raid From Beausejour; And How The Carter Boys Lifted The Mortgage

    Charles G. D. Roberts

  • “Then come and dine here,” said Dick, unable to refuse a neighbour hospitality.


    William J. Locke

  • She lay looking about her, unable for the moment to remember where she was.

    Grace Harlowe’s Return to Overton Campus

    Jessie Graham Flower

  • British Dictionary definitions for unable unable adjective

    1. (postpositive foll by to) lacking the necessary power, ability, or authority (to do something); not able
    2. archaic incompetent

    Word Origin and History for unable adj.

    late 14c., “lacking in ability, incapable,” from un- (1) “not” + able. Modeled on Old French inhabile or Latin inhabilis.

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