Stable vs. Stabile

These two adjectives have similar meanings, with a subtle difference.

Stable (STAY-bull) = steady in position or balance; not easily disrupted; sane or rational

Stabile (STAY-Bile) = immobile, stationary; resistant to chemical change, unchangeable

Stable Examples:

That rickety old ladder doesn’t look very stable.

She had a very stable household as a child.

Stabile Example:

For use in steamfloods, tubulars must have coatings that are stabile in salt water up to 500°F.

Both of these words can also be used as nouns.

Stable = a barn where animals are housed and fed, usually with stalls or compartments.

Stabile = a 3D stationary sculpture

Examples:

If we buy another horse, we’re going to have to build another stable.

I wound the baby’s mobile too tight and broke the spring, so now it is a stabile.
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Totally Embarrassing Typo of the Day:

Drivers for a freight company were showing up at the oilfield job site wearing sandals and no safety glasses.

The supervisor sent out an email complaining that the “driver did not have a hard hat on,” except he left the word “hat” out!!

YIKES!

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Poetic Quote of the Day:

“I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility.

Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time.”

– Robert Browning, English poet, 1812-1889

4 Responses to “Stable vs. Stabile”

  1. Andrew Carlssin Says:

    To add to the confusion, the noun form of both is “stability”.

  2. Darek S Says:

    To be more funny… In Oxford Dictionary there is no adjective for “stabile” (only noun = a rigid sculpture), and “stable” takes the two functions mentioned above🙂

  3. Scott Slocum Says:

    Apparently, there’s a lack of agreement–even among the experts–in how to use these words. Everyone has his own idea of what the “subtle differences” are. My feeling is that the New Oxford American Dictionary did well to limit the definition of “stabile” to the single meaning: “a structure… in the style a mobile but rigid and stationary”. I’m switching to “stable” now, even though I once had an opinion of what I thought the “subtle differences” were.

  4. Kevin Says:

    Both stable and stabile come originally from the Latin ‘stabilis’. However, stable enters the English language in the 13c via French meaning to ‘position’ as in to place one’s horse in a enclosure. In 14c, the word became a noun to include the place where the horse was kept. ‘Stabile’ was first recorded in English in the 1940s and was perhaps a form of hypercorrection to keep it inline with words like mobile or febrile (from Latin, mobilis and febrilis respectively). This sadly sheds little light on the question at hand since I can find no citing for when either stable or stabile in the sense of unchanged or unmoving was first used. An interesting question…

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