historical usage of unalienable
Often noted are the antiquated use of capital letters to emphasize important concepts—like Creator, Life, and Liberty—and the sexist use of the phrase “all men” to stand for “all people.” But why write unalienable when the most common form of the word is inalienable ?
Historians have pointed out that in a draft of the Declaration of Independence, its author Thomas Jefferson wrote “certain inherent and inalienable rights,” choosing to use alliteration. But Jefferson’s wording and spelling were later changed to “certain unalienable Rights.” To add to the apparent mystery, on a wall in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., the phrase appears as “certain inalienable rights,” and inalienable is the spelling found in most modern quotations from the Declaration.
In one way, the solution to the puzzle is simple: until sometime in the 1830s, unalienable was the overwhelmingly preferred spelling. But since then, inalienable gradually replaced it. Today, were it not for our annual commemoration of the Declaration of Independence, the spelling unalienable would be all but forgotten.
In another way, the answer to the puzzle is less straightforward: it is evidence of the constantly competing and changing word forms found in English. There are many other examples of unruly rivalries involving the prefixes in- (from Latin) and un- (from Old and Middle English), both jostling for dominance in the formation of “not” compounds. For example, inarguable and unarguable have been fighting it out for well over a century. Although both forms are still in use, inarguable recently began to clearly edge out its rival. In contrast, unability may have once had its day, but it has virtually disappeared from English, bested by its rival, inability. (But we still prefer unable for the associated adjective.) Sometimes un- and in- have helped us create differences in meanings. For example, inhuman (in the sense of “cruel”) is contrasted with unhuman (in the sense of “not being human”). And inartistic (in the sense of referring to a person lacking artistic sense) is contrasted with unartistic (in the sense of referring to something not done artistically).
So the Fourth of July can also remind us that word forms in English are constantly changing and revitalizing the language.
Words nearby unalienable
MORE ABOUT UNALIENABLE
What does unalienable mean?
Unalienable describes things, especially rights, that cannot be taken away, denied, or transferred to another person.
Unalienable means the same thing as inalienable, which is now the standard term.
Unalienable is no longer in common use, but it is closely associated with the phrase unalienable rights due to its appearance in the U.S. Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Thomas Jefferson actually used inalienable in early drafts of the Declaration of Independence, but the spelling was changed for the final draft. Unalienable was the preferred spelling until around the 1830s, but inalienable has completely replaced it in regular use.
Alienable is a word, but it’s rarely used. It means able to be sold or transferred.
Example: We work to make the founders’ words true—that everyone has the unalienable right to freedom.
Where does unalienable come from?
The first records of the word unalienable come from the early 1600s. It is formed from the prefix un-, meaning “not,” and alienable, which comes from the Latin verb aliēnāre, meaning “to transfer by sale.”
If something is unalienable, it’s “not for sale”—it isn’t going anywhere. Regardless of its preferred spelling, the word has always been used in a legal context. It’s most commonly used to describe rights that people believe cannot be denied to them or taken away from them by their government. Such rights involve things other than freedom, such as the ownership of property.
Did you know ... ?
What are some synonyms for unalienable?
What are some words that share a root or word element with unalienable?
What are some words that often get used in discussing unalienable?
How is unalienable used in real life?
Unalienable is no longer in common use, but it’s well known due to its use in the Declaration of Independence.
Religious freedom and celebrating religious holidays is an unalienable right to all people of all nations endowed to them by their Creator. Our hearts are with our #Uyghur sisters as they celebrate in secret. #EidMubarak. pic.twitter.com/vOz8FMfCOt
— U.S. State Dept | Office of Global Women's Issues (@StateGWI) July 31, 2020
When @SecPompeo & his Commission on Unalienable Rights use religious freedom as cover to discriminate against vulnerable people, we don't remain silent. The AJWS community mobilized to provide public comments, which you can read about here: https://t.co/mUa026aUDt
— American Jewish World Service (AJWS) (@ajws) August 4, 2020
In memory with deep respect and eternal gratitude…
Lest we forget, that our freedoms and individual liberties
are not "privileges" granted to us by a Senator, Congressman, Governor, or Mayor, but are "unalienable Rights" given by a higher, universal authority." pic.twitter.com/BkpFWnMEqx
— Dwight Yoakam (@DwightYoakam) May 25, 2020
Try using unalienable!
Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of unalienable?
How to use unalienable in a sentence
Putin said Ukraine was an “unalienable” part of Russia’s “own history, culture and spiritual space” in an hour-long speech yesterday, and that the self-declared republics needed to be protected from the threat of “genocide.”Why Russia might invade Ukraine, and what it means for the global economy|Courtney Vinopal|February 15, 2022|Quartz
I will fight to defend the self-evident truths that all people are created equal and have an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of individual fulfillment.We Have No Idea What We're Fighting For Anymore|Karl Marlantes|August 26, 2021|Time
Murray goes on to say in the ensuing chapter that the nation’s soul is bound up in the founding ideals that affirm we are all created equal, with certain unalienable rights.A well-worn argument about race, intelligence and violence|Theodore Johnson|June 25, 2021|Washington Post
But as Coulter says, No one is claiming that the Constitution gives each person an unalienable right not to buy insurance.Three Cheers for Ann Coulter|David Frum|February 2, 2012|DAILY BEAST
Fourth, It is the function of government to secure these natural, unalienable, and equal rights to every man.
He kidnaps a man endowed by his Creator with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
He knew he was stealing a Man born with the same unalienable right to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,' as himself.
Was there any effectual mode of securing to Mr. Burns his natural and unalienable Right except the mode of forcible rescue?
Will you remember your natural, unalienable right over her whom your mother loved and trusted?'Discipline|Mary Brunton