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[uhn-ey-buh l] /ʌnˈeɪ bəl/
lacking the necessary power, competence, etc., to accomplish some specified act:
He was unable to swim.
Origin of unable
1350-1400; Middle English; see un-1, able
See incapable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for unable
  • Even when both partners seem willing, males are often unable to consummate the affair.
  • We seem to be bent on destroying every single resource and unable to talk our way out of doing so.
  • Hogan would spend another pain-filled month in the hospital, unable to leave his bed.
  • My family is unable to locate any information on him.
  • Curie was now unable to afford the element she had discovered.
  • My goal was to make the audience laugh but leave them unable to describe what it was that had made them laugh.
  • Plagued by gout, rheumatism and vascular problems, he was often in pain and unable to walk.
  • The moon came up and they found themselves unable to talk.
  • Moreover, at the outset they were naturally unable to adapt themselves to the special and peculiar needs of their condition.
  • Toward morning they found themselves unable to feed the fire, which gradually died away.
British Dictionary definitions for unable


(postpositive) foll by to. lacking the necessary power, ability, or authority (to do something); not able
(archaic) incompetent
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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Word Origin and History for unable

late 14c., "lacking in ability, incapable," from un- (1) "not" + able. Modeled on Old French inhabile or Latin inhabilis.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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