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[uhn-ey-buh l] /ʌnˈeɪ bəl/
lacking the necessary power, competence, etc., to accomplish some specified act:
He was unable to swim.
Origin of unable
1350-1400; Middle English; see un-1, able Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for unable
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Because one is ugly and strong, the other graceful but unable to stand alone?

    Moods Louisa May Alcott
  • But he was unable to eat after it was on the table before him.

    The Man from the Bitter Roots Caroline Lockhart
  • I tried to banish the thought as an absurdity, but was unable to do so.

  • The sloth, which has four feet, is unable to use them to support his body on the earth.

    The Western World W.H.G. Kingston
  • It behoves an enlightened Government to do for the people and the country what they are unable to do for themselves.

British Dictionary definitions for unable


(postpositive) foll by to. lacking the necessary power, ability, or authority (to do something); not able
(archaic) incompetent
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for unable

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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