Make Your Editor Cry: Amicable vs. Amiable

Make Your Editor Cry:  Amicable vs. Amiable

Amicable refers to the connections between plural people or things, like a friendly situation with a crowd or countless trees. Take out the C for crowd or countless and you’re left with a singular amiable, one friendly person.

Amicable comes from the Late Latin amicabilis, for friendly, which can be traced to the Latin amicus, for friend. The adjective amicable means “friendly” — but in particular, use it when describing relations one might otherwise expect to be unfriendly. The end of a romantic relationship that’s less than amicable might involve broken dishes or broken bones.

Amiable also comes from the exact same Late Latin amicabilis, but with a stop in Old French as amiable before English adopted it. Some “experts” use amiable to describe only people, but amiable can also used to describe things being sociable or agreeable, like an amiable tone of voice. A friendly, pleasant person could be described as amiable. Airline flight attendants tend to be amiable. A frustrated vice principal? Probably not.

Amicable is newer, appearing in English for the first time in the 15th century. Synonyms for amicable include compatible, congenial, frictionless, harmonious, kindred, unanimous, and united.

Amiable is a little more mature, first appearing in English in the 14th century. Synonyms for amiable include affable, genial, good-natured, good-tempered, gracious, mellow, nice, pleasant, sweet, and well-disposed.

Examples:

Incorrect:

Like most cases of divorce, the couple started out striving to keep the split amiable.

With a jolly wink and a smile, most saw David Berkowitz as an amicable man.

Correct:

Like most cases of divorce, the couple started out striving to keep the split amicable.

With a jolly wink and a smile, most saw David Berkowitz as an amiable man.

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