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unalienable

[ uhn-eyl-yuh-nuh-buhl, -ey-lee-uh- ]
/ ʌnˈeɪl yə nə bəl, -ˈeɪ li ə- /
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adjective
not transferable to another or not capable of being taken away or denied; inalienable: Inherent in the U.S. Constitution is the belief that all people are born with an unalienable right to freedom.
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Origin of unalienable

First recorded in 1610–20; un-1 + alienable

historical usage of unalienable

Each year, when the Fourth of July, or Independence Day, rolls around, we often hear discussions about the most resonant passages in the country’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence. Particular attention is paid to its arguably most famous pronouncement: “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.”
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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

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.

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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.

 

 

Try using unalienable!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of unalienable?

A. inalienable
B. inherent
C. optional
D. absolute

How to use unalienable in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for unalienable

unalienable
/ (ʌnˈeɪljənəbəl) /

adjective
law a variant of inalienable
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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