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/ ˈskeɪ lə bəl /
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capable of being scaled: the scalable slope of a mountain.
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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 scalable

First recorded in 1570–80; scale3 + -able


scal·a·ble·ness, nounscal·a·bly, adverbun·scal·a·ble, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does scalable mean?

Scalable means able to be expanded or made bigger. It’s especially applied to small businesses and computer networks.

This sense of the word is based on the noun scale, referring to the size or extent of something. The related phrase scale up means to expand something or make it bigger. A company considered scalable is one that can be scaled up—it can use the same business model with a much larger operation. The term is especially used in the context of startups that could potentially become very large companies. A computer network or other virtual entity that’s scalable is one that can be expanded while allowing for increased use or additional computing capacity.

Unrelatedly, scalable means able to be climbed. This sense of the word is based on the verb scale, meaning to climb.

Example: It’s an interesting business model, but it’s not scalable—to expand, you’d need an unsustainable amount of raw materials and infrastructure.

Where does scalable come from?

The first records of scalable in reference to something being climeable come from the 1500s. The first records of its more modern sense (relating to things being expanded) come much later, from the 1900s.

This sense of scalable is often associated with computer networks, programs, processes, and data storage. It can be applied to things like databases and artificial intelligence applications, among many others.

More recently, scalable has become popularly used to describe small businesses capable of growth and expansion. It’s especially used as a buzzword in the world of startups. That’s because the goal of most startups is to start small and then become as big as possible. In order for a business to be scalable, it has to be able to expand the capacity to meet the demand for its products or services when its market and customer base grow to become much bigger than they are currently. All of this has to happen while keeping the costs of the product low and maintaining or (as the venture capitalists prefer) increasing profits.

Scalable doesn’t always have to apply to computer networks or startups. Anything that’s able to be expanded or scaled up can be called scalable, such as an individual person’s workflow or a physical object that can be added to as needed.

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What are some other forms related to scalable?

  • scale (verb)
  • scalability (noun)
  • scalableness (noun)
  • scalably (adverb)
  • unscalable (adjective)

What are some synonyms for scalable?

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

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

How is scalable used in real life?

Scalable is most commonly used in the context of computers and small businesses. In the context of business, it’s often considered a buzzword.



Try using scalable!

Which of the following words is LEAST likely to describe something considered scalable?

A. flexible
B. expandable
C. adaptable
D. rigid

How to use scalable in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for scalable

/ (ˈskeɪləbəl) /

capable of being scaled or climbed
computing (of a network) able to be expanded to cope with increased use

Derived forms of scalable

scalableness, nounscalably, adverb
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