1560s, raliabill, "that may be relied on, fit to be depended on, trustworthy," originally Scottish; see rely + -able. Not common before 1850, and often execrated thereafter in Britain as an Americanism because it involves a use of -able different from its use in provable, etc., and not warranted in classical Latin. But it is defended (by OED, Century Dictionary, etc.) on grounds of the suffix's sense in available, laughable, livable, dependable; indispensable, etc. Related: Reliably; reliableness. As a noun, "a reliable person, beast, or thing," by 1890 (with old).
Reliable expresses what cannot be expressed by any other one word. Moreover, it conveys an idea of constant occurrence. He who would be exact has, indeed, no alternative, if he avoids it except a periphrasis. [Fitzedward Hall, "On English Adjectives in -Able," 1877]
updated on June 23, 2021