[ en-ey-bler ]
/ ɛnˈeɪ blər /
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a person or thing that enables something, or makes it possible: Technology is a key enabler of efficiency and productivity.
a person who enables or supports someone else’s bad or dysfunctional behavior: His wife is an unwitting enabler who makes excuses for his drinking.
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of enabler

First recorded in 1610–20; 1975–80 for def. 2

Words nearby enabler

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does enabler mean?

An enabler is someone who allows or makes it easier for someone to do what they shouldn’t. It’s especially used in the context of addiction and abuse.

The verb enable is usually used in a positive or neutral way meaning to make possible or provide someone with the power, means, opportunity, or authority to do something.

But the word enabler is almost always used in a critical way to refer to someone who allows, encourages, or makes it possible for another person to engage in behavior that’s harmful to others, such as abuse, or self-destructive, such as drug or alcohol abuse.

For example, a parent who allows the other parent to abuse their children might be called an enabler.

Example: He asked me to go out for one drink, but I don’t want to be an enabler, so I told him we could go to a movie instead.

Where does enabler come from?

The first records of the word enabler come from the 1600s. Its base word, enable, is formed from the prefix en- and the word able, making it mean “to make able to.”

An enabler allows people to be able to continue doing the harmful things that they’ve been doing to themselves or others. This especially happens in close relationships, such as between friends or partners or between a parent and child. Enablers don’t necessarily need to be actively encouraging bad behavior to be considered enablers. Enablers enable in a number of ways, such as by making excuses for the person, justifying their behavior, or helping them to avoid the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, the enabling happens even though the enabler doesn’t mean it to or doesn’t realize that they’re doing it. They may think they’re helping or being supportive, but by not trying to intervene to stop behavior before it happens or to denounce it after it happens, they end up allowing or even indirectly encouraging it.

Although the term enabler is often used in the serious context of addiction and abuse, it can be used in less serious ways. A person who’s trying to follow a strict diet may call someone an enabler for bringing junk food into the house.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to enabler?

  • enable (verb)

What are some words that share a root or word element with enabler


What are some words that often get used in discussing enabler?

How is enabler used in real life?

Calling someone an enabler is almost always negative. Still, it can be used in serious and not-so-serious ways.



How to use enabler in a sentence