[ ey-buhl-bod-eed ]
/ ˈeɪ bəlˈbɒd id /
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having a strong, healthy body; physically fit: A couple of able-bodied guys dragged the tree off to the shoulder of the road and got traffic moving again.
Sometimes Offensive. free from or unaffected by physical disability: There is a three-month limit on food assistance benefits for able-bodied adults who work fewer than 20 hours per week.
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Origin of able-bodied

First recorded in 1610–20; able + bodied

usage note for able-bodied

The description able-bodied to characterize people who are not living with a disability is increasingly considered offensive, primarily because of two negative connotations associated with the term.
First, defining the population who is not living with a physical disability as able-bodied diminishes those who are enabled by accommodation or adaptive aids. Combating ableism and embracing equal rights and opportunities means emphasizing the qualifications of the individual, whether or not that person uses assistive technology to access or participate in an activity.
Further, the term able-bodied does not fully align with the requirements of the modern job market, which is no longer exclusively defined by physical labor. Historically the descriptor able-bodied was used to distinguish nondisabled people from those living with a disability, and also from children, the elderly, and pregnant women. It is still used today in some government documentation to indicate eligibility for employment or military service.
In its use as a legal designation in administering programs for people in poverty, able-bodied has become a politicized word. When determining who is deserving of public aid, it is fair to expect those who are able to work to fully pursue opportunities that make them self-sufficient; financial assistance is allocated to those who are unable to support themselves. However, the insinuation that unemployed or underemployed people designated as able-bodied are choosing assistance over work out of laziness or greed does not take into account other barriers to employment, like insufficient education and training, mental illness, cognitive and emotional challenges, or other personal limitations that are not physical.
When not referring to a specific legal designation, it is better to refer to people as nondisabled , enabled , or not living with (a specified impairment), and to be as precise as possible.

OTHER WORDS FROM able-bodied

a·ble-bod·ied·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use able-bodied in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for able-bodied


physically strong and healthy; robust
not having a physical disability

usage for able-bodied

Preferred form: non-disabled
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