able


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

all able-bodied people

Anyone and everyone who is able to help or contribute to a cause in some way. I'm calling on all able-bodied men and women in the area to lend a hand restoring the local church this weekend.
See also: all, people

able to do (something) standing on (one's) head

Very adept at doing something, with very little or no difficulty; able to complete or accomplish something in a relaxed, carefree, or effortless manner. It took me a little while to get used to this job, but now I'm able do it standing on my head! You should ask Johnny for help—he's able to do this level of math standing on his head.
See also: able, head, on, standing

willing and able

A phrase used to describe someone who is ready or capable of doing something I think Nicky is finally willing and able to go back to school. It's fine, my mom is totally willing and able to lend me a few bucks.
See also: able, and, willing

able to get a word in edgewise

Able to speak despite other people dominating the conversation (hence the image of squeezing words in "edgewise"—sideways). Usually used in the negative. When Mary came up for air in her monologue, I was finally able to get a word in edgewise about my own weekend! The third-tier candidate wasn't able to get a word in edgewise at the debate.
See also: able, edgewise, get, word

able to breathe (easily) again

 and able to breathe (freely) again 
1. Lit. able to breathe clean, fresh air with no restriction or obstruction. After I got out of the dank basement, I was able to breathe easily again.
2. Fig. able to relax and recover from a busy or stressful time; able to catch one's breath. (Able to can be replaced with can.) Final exams are over, so I can breathe easily again.
See also: able, again, breathe

able to cut something

Fig. to be able to manage or execute something. (Often negative. Able to can be replaced with can.) We thought he could handle the new account, but he is simply not able to cut it.
See also: able, cut

able to do something

to have the strength or skill to do something. (Able to can be replaced with can.) Are you able to carry those bags by yourself?
See also: able

able to do something blindfolded

 and able to do something standing on one's head
Fig. able to do something very easily, possibly without even looking. (Able to can be replaced with can.) Bill boasted that he could pass his driver's test blindfolded.
See also: able, blindfold

able to do something with one's eyes closed

Fig. able to do something very easily, even without having to think about it or look at it. (Always affirmative. Able to can be replaced with can.) It's easy. I can do it with my eyes closed.
See also: able, closed, eye

able to fog a mirror

Fig. Inf. alive, even if just barely. (Usually jocular. Alludes to the use of a small mirror placed under the nose to tell if a person is breathing or not. (Able to can be replaced with can.) Look, I don't need an athlete to do this job! Anybody able to fog a mirror will do fine!
See also: able, fog, mirror

able to make an event

able to attend an event. (Able to can be replaced with can.) I don't think I'll be able to make your party, but thanks for asking me.
See also: able, event, make

able to take a joke

to be able to accept ridicule good-naturedly; to be able to be the object or butt of a joke willingly. (Able to can be replaced with can.) Better not tease Ann. She can't take a joke.
See also: able, joke, take

able to take just so much

 and able to take only so much
able to endure only a limited amount of discomfort or unpleasantness. (Able to can be replaced with can.) Please stop hurting my feelings. I'm able to take just so much.
See also: able, just, much, take

not able

See the expressions listed at can't as well as those listed below.
See also: able, not

not able to call one's time one's own

too busy; so busy as not to be in charge of one's own schedule. It's been so busy around here that I haven't been able to call my time my own. She can't call her time her own these days.
See also: able, call, not, time

not able to get something for love or money

Fig. not able to get something at any price; completely unable to get something. Oranges were so scarce last winter that you couldn't get them for love or money. I wanted to go to the concert, but I was not able to get a ticket for love or money.
See also: able, get, love, money, not

not able to go on

unable to continue (doing something—even living). (Not able to is often expressed as can't.) I just can't go on this way. Before her death, she left a note saying she was not able to go on.
See also: able, not, on

not able to help something

unable to prevent or control something. (Not able to is often expressed as can't.) I'm sorry about being late. I wasn't able to help it. Bob can't help being boring.
See also: able, help, not

not able to make anything out (of someone or something)

unable to understand someone or something. (Not able to is often expressed as can't. The anything may refer to something specific, as in the first example.) I can't make sense out of what you just said. We were not able to make anything out of the message.
See also: able, anything, make, not, out

not able to make head or tail of something

Fig. not able to understand something at all. I couldn't make head or tail of the professor's geology lecture this morning. Can you help me fill out my tax forms? I can't make head or tail of the instructions.
See also: able, head, make, not, of, tail

not able to see the forest for the trees

Cliché allowing many details of a situation to obscure the situation as a whole. (Not able to is often expressed as can't.) The solution is obvious. You missed it because you can't see the forest for the trees. She suddenly realized that she hadn't been able to see the forest for the trees.
See also: able, forest, not, see, tree

not able to stomach someone or something

 and cannot stomach someone or something
Fig. not to be able to put up with someone or something; not to be able to tolerate or endure someone or something. Jane cannot stomach violent movies. The sensitive student could not stomach a lot of ridicule.
See also: able, not, stomach

not able to wait

to have to go to the bathroom urgently. (Also more broadly literal.) Mom, I can't wait. Driver, stop the bus! My little boy can't wait.
See also: able, not, wait

ready, willing, and able

Cliché eager or at least willing [to do something]. If you need someone to help you move furniture, I'm ready, willing, and able. Fred is ready, willing, and able to do anything you ask him.
See also: able, and

not able

see under can't or under main phrase.
See also: able, not

ready, willing, and able

Well prepared and eager to do something, as in Any time you want me to babysit, I'm ready, willing, and able.
See also: able, and

able to cut something

tv. able to manage or execute something. (Often negative.) Do you think you’re able to cut it? He’s just not able to cut it.
See also: able, cut
References in classic literature ?
Therefore, the Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only to be put off to the advantage of others; moreover they wished to fight with Philip and Antiochus in Greece so as not to have to do it in Italy; they could have avoided both, but this they did not wish; nor did that ever please them which is for ever in the mouths of the wise ones of our time:--Let us enjoy the benefits of the time--but rather the benefits of their own valour and prudence, for time drives everything before it, and is able to bring with it good as well as evil, and evil as well as good.
The giant, thereupon, carried the man to within about a hundred leagues of the castle, where he left him, saying, 'You will be able to walk the remainder of the way yourself.
I wish she had been able to dance," said his wife; "I wish we could have got a partner for her.
She had a bad memory for names, and it irritated her not to be able to think of them, so that she would pause in the middle of some story to rack her brains.
Besides," added Aramis, "you will not be a king such as your father was, delicate in health, slow in judgment, whom all things wearied; you will be a king governing by your brain and by your sword; you will have in the government of the state no more than you will be able to manage unaided; I should only interfere with you.
My sister Amanda, although she tried to do the best she could, was too young to know anything about keeping house, and my stepfather was not able to hire a housekeeper.
It is hard to make out what I mean, but this is a try at it, and I do not know that I shall be able to do better unless I add that Thackeray, of all the writers that I have known, is the most thoroughly and profoundly imbued with literature, so that when he speaks it is not with words and blood, but with words and ink.
Why, there's some sense in that argument," admitted the Shaggy Man, thoughtfully; "but people who are strangers, and don't know you are here, won't be able to keep out of your way.
Don't say anything about it, because, thanks to this nap, I shall be able to come every evening and chat for an hour with you.
I seek," she replied, "a mate suitable for me, and am not able to find one.
So it is; but there is more to come, and you may be able to enjoy that.
And who is best able to do good to his friends and evil to his enemies in time of sickness?
This, it is true, would of itself alone never have been able to eradicate Jones from his bosom; but it was greatly injurious to him, and prepared Mr Allworthy's mind for those impressions which afterwards produced the mighty events that will be contained hereafter in this history; and to which, it must be confest, the unfortunate lad, by his own wantonness, wildness, and want of caution, too much contributed.
Lord Dawlish, if he had been able to diagnose correctly the almost paternal attitude which had become his host's normal manner these days, would have been equally embarrassed but less startled, for conscience had already suggested to him from time to time that he had been guilty of a feeling toward Elizabeth warmer than any feeling that should come to an engaged man.
Pickwick, though able to sustain a very considerable amount of exertion and fatigue, was not proof against such a combination of attacks as he had undergone on the memorable night, recorded in the last chapter.