Amiable and Amicable

Commonly Confused Words

punk couple in masks
They were an amiable couple, and their inevitable divorce was amicable. (Eugenio Marongiu/Getty Images)

My dear friends, amiable and amicable are both agreeable words, but they're used in slightly different ways.

Definitions

The adjective amiable means friendly, pleasant, likable, and/or sociable. Amiable is commonly used to describe people. The adverb form is amiably.

The adjective amicable means peaceable, willing, or characterized by goodwill. Amicable is generally used to describe situations, encounters, or relationships between people.

The adverb form is amicably.

Also see the usage notes below.
 

Examples

  • "He's a big amiable man from Aberdeen--nothing fazes him and he takes everything in his stride."
    (Irvine Welsh, "My Mentor." The Guardian [UK], July 4, 2008)

     
  • "Guinea pigs do not judge. They do not bully. They are characteristically amiable, social and oh-so-tactile. They tuck comfortably into child-size laps and err on the side of the seriously cute."
    (Jan Hoffman, "Guinea Pigs Are Autistic Child’s Best Friend." The New York Times, June 29, 2015)

     
  • "I think he felt as I did—just a vague sense of sadness at the futility of it all. We were able to sort out our affairs without conflict. Perhaps that is what constitutes an amicable separation. It was defined not by the presence of friendship but the lack of animosity."
    (Linda Olsson, The Memory of Love. Penguin, 2013)
     
  • "Following a vacation that Amy took with the two children but without Harry (he couldn't take off time from work), she announced that she wanted a divorce and had never loved him. The process was surprisingly amicable, with Amy agreeing that Harry would get custody."
    (Geoffrey L. Greif and Rebecca L. Hegar, When Parents Kidnap. The Free Press, 1993)

     

    Usage Notes

    "These are two lovely words. Amiable ultimately derives from Latin words meaning 'friendly' and 'lovable.' And amicable derives from the Latin for 'friend,' which is related to 'love.' But they're used in different ways in English.

    "Amiable people are friendly, likeable. An amiable mood, conversation, behavior, nature, etc., is friendly, kindly.

    likeable.

    "Amiability is friendliness, likeability.

    "Amicable relationships, talks, agreements, etc. are characterized by goodwill and a polite and friendly desire not to disagree.

    "To do something amicably is to do it cordially, without quarreling."
    (Stephen Spector, May I Quote You on That? Oxford University Press, 2015)
     

    Practice
     

    (a) "The bears and local citizens have an _____ truce, with residents often carrying out a small level of subsistence whaling to keep the polar bears from starving."
    ("Waiting for Sunset: The Stunning Images of Polar Bears at Sundown in Alaska." Daily Express [UK], November 5, 2013)

    (b) "Moments later the bus halts and Abu Riyad, an extremely _____ policeman with a fine sense of humor, climbs aboard and welcomes us to Jordan."
    (Carol Spencer Mitchell, Danger Pay: Memoir of a Photojournalist in the Middle East, 1984-1994. University of Texas Press, 2008)
     

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

     Answers to Practice Exercises: Amiable and Amicable

    (a) "The bears and local citizens have an amicable truce, with residents often carrying out a small level of subsistence whaling to keep the polar bears from starving."
    ("Waiting for Sunset: The Stunning Images of Polar Bears at Sundown in Alaska." Daily Express [UK], November 5, 2013)

    (b) "Moments later the bus halts and Abu Riyad, an extremely amiable policeman with a fine sense of humor, climbs aboard and welcomes us to Jordan."
    (Carol Spencer Mitchell, Danger Pay: Memoir of a Photojournalist in the Middle East, 1984-1994.

    University of Texas Press, 2008)
     

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Amiable and Amicable." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/amiable-and-amicable-1689626. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, March 3). Amiable and Amicable. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/amiable-and-amicable-1689626 Nordquist, Richard. "Amiable and Amicable." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/amiable-and-amicable-1689626 (accessed January 22, 2018).