Entries linking to bearable
Old English beran "to carry, bring; bring forth, give birth to, produce; to endure without resistance; to support, hold up, sustain; to wear" (class IV strong verb; past tense bær, past participle boren), from Proto-Germanic *beranan (source also of Old Saxon beran, Old Frisian bera "bear, give birth," Middle Dutch beren "carry a child," Old High German beran, German gebären, Old Norse bera "carry, bring, bear, endure; give birth," Gothic bairan "to carry, bear, give birth to"), from PIE root *bher- (1) "carry a burden, bring," also "give birth" (though only English and German strongly retain this sense, and Russian has beremennaya "pregnant").
Old English past tense bær became Middle English bare; alternative bore began to appear c. 1400, but bare remained the literary form till after 1600. Past participle distinction of borne for "carried" and born for "given birth" is from late 18c.
Many senses are from notion of "move onward by pressure." From c. 1300 as "possess as an attribute or characteristic." Meaning "sustain without sinking" is from 1520s; to bear (something) in mind is from 1530s; meaning "tend, be directed (in a certain way)" is from c. 1600. To bear down "proceed forcefully toward" (especially in nautical use) is from 1716. To bear up is from 1650s as "be firm, have fortitude."
common termination and word-forming element of English adjectives (typically based on verbs) and generally adding a notion of "capable of; allowed; worthy of; requiring; to be ______ed," sometimes "full of, causing," from French -able and directly from Latin -abilis. It is properly -ble, from Latin -bilis (the vowel being generally from the stem ending of the verb being suffixed), and it represents PIE *-tro-, a suffix used to form nouns of instrument, cognate with the second syllables of English rudder and saddle (n.).
A living element in English, used in new formations from either Latin or native words (readable, bearable) and also with nouns (objectionable, peaceable). Sometimes with an active signification (suitable, capable), sometimes of neutral signification (durable, conformable). It has become very elastic in meaning, as in a reliable witness, a playable foul ball, perishable goods. A 17c. writer has cadaverable "mortal."
To take a single example in detail, no-one but a competent philologist can tell whether reasonable comes from the verb or the noun reason, nor whether its original sense was that can be reasoned out, or that can reason, or that can be reasoned with, or that has reason, or that listens to reason, or that is consistent with reason; the ordinary man knows only that it can now mean any of these, & justifiably bases on these & similar facts a generous view of the termination's capabilities; credible meaning for him worthy of credence, why should not reliable & dependable mean worthy of reliance & dependence? [Fowler]
In Latin, -abilis and -ibilis depended on the inflectional vowel of the verb. Hence the variant form -ible in Old French, Spanish, English. In English, -able tends to be used with native (and other non-Latin) words, -ible with words of obvious Latin origin (but there are exceptions). The Latin suffix is not etymologically connected with able, but it long has been popularly associated with it, and this probably has contributed to its vigor as a living suffix.
updated on September 12, 2012