Wordmaster: amiable, amicable

These two words, amiable and amicable, should be carefully distinguished.

Amiable is used to describe people or expressions and means “appearing pleasant, agreeable, and friendly”:  an amiable mood, an amiable smile.

Amicable is used to describe arrangements or agreements and means “showing friendly goodwill”:  The two sides reached an amicable agreement. They settled their differences in an amicable manner.

Source:  The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. billarends
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 09:31:52

    People confuse these two? One is an Adjective and one an adverb.


  2. Zayna
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 12:01:32

    Sorry Bill but most people under 20 these days don’t even know what adjectives and adverbs are. It’s frightening how poorly they spell and many of them seem to have no idea what punctuation and capitals are for.

    Makes me wonder about the future of literature.


    • lulu
      Jul 30, 2010 @ 17:45:07

      …thefutureoflititurewillbefullofuncapatalizedrunonsentences…(do you have any idea how hard it is to type a run-on sentence)


  3. Stephen
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 12:01:53

    No, they’re both adjectives. Both describe nouns (not verbs).


  4. billarends
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 14:14:44

    Sorry your right Amiably or Amicably would be the adverb forms.


  5. billarends
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 14:21:54

    I take back my original comment as the confusion is not difficult to understand when you look at the Etymology of Both words. They are both from Amicus (Latin for Friend) (OED)


  6. Zayna
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 14:55:23

    Hmmm, having been well pleased that I knew the difference between the two words I didn’t really worry too much about whether they were adjectives or adverbs. I suppose it’s not just “kids these days”.

    Still, I’ll stand by my comment. 🙂


  7. billarends
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 15:28:00

    I generally don’t get into spelling and punctuation debates as I tend to be bad at both. Zayna’s point is valid, but you also have to take into account those that have issues with communication. I am the secretary of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ottawa Carleton. We have hundreds of children and adults that come through our centre every year who struggle with spelling and grammar. The difficulty is not because they are lazy or sloppy. The difficulty is because they communicate differently. People with learning disabilities often have terrible spelling, for many reasons not related to their intellectual capacity contrary to what people think. I attended a conference last year where the presenter was a publish author. He ran an interactive presentation where he typed out the audiences responses. In this activity, he spelled almost every second incorrectly, yet on the topic of Dysgraphia, he is a noted expert. I have a mild form of Dyslexic Dysgraphia,. My spelling without a spell check is awful, and I will print rather than use cursive writing. Poor spelling and Grammar is not indicative of below average intelligence, Dyslexia is diagnosed in people of all levels of intelligence: below average, average, above average, and highly gifted. Zayna may be right the quality of education has gone down and there are more students that can’t spell and don’t know grammar from grandma simply because they have not been taught well, but not all are products of a poor educational system some have legitimate learning issues.


  8. Zayna
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 16:43:54

    Oh my…did I open a can of worms or what?

    First off, I did not at all mean to imply that everyone should fit into some kind of box and that those who don’t are less than those who do.

    Actually, quite the opposite…I pulled my “exceptional” (as labeled by the school) daughter out of public school for the exact reason that her potential was not being acknowledge let alone realized inside their framework.

    I was actually eluding to the mainstreaming of dumbing down to accommodate the acceptable norm (or rather to meet objectives set out by the Ministry of Education) instead of trying to rework the education system to take into account that not everyone learns the same way.

    I guess I put my foot in it. I really did not mean to offend and I sincerely apologize if I did.

    Though from my personal experience, the system does seem to do it’s best to maintain the status quo.


  9. Stephen
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 22:28:01

    We always judge people’s intelligence based on their language skills. And there’s a certain validity to it: when someone is brilliant with words, it’s pretty safe to assume they are indeed intelligent!

    But the converse doesn’t hold up so well. Some people who are quite intelligent have poor spelling or grammar. Language is a very specialized function, it seems to me. As Bill says, just because someone struggles with spelling doesn’t mean they aren’t very intelligent in other respects.

    I do think our educational system fails to bring out the best in some students. But I hesitate to be too critical, because I think teaching is a tough profession to excel at.


  10. billarends
    Oct 24, 2009 @ 07:22:35

    Zayna I wasn’t offended i was just putting on my LD association hat and ranting. It is my turn to apologize if I appeared critical. I tend to rant on the topic.


  11. Zayna
    Oct 26, 2009 @ 18:07:37

    Okay, so is this where I apologize for implying that you appeared critical? LOL!

    I amiably suggest an amicable resolution. We should urge Stephen to put up a new post! 😛


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