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I've been looking online at these three words, but I'm not able to determine their relationship and the rules surrounding their usage.

I believe this is true:

  • Repairable: Just what you'd think, "capable of being repaired".
  • Reparable: Exactly the same as repairable (modulo spelling and pronunciation of course).
  • Irreparable: The opposite of the above.
  • Unrepairable: The same meaning as irreparable, but seems to be less commonly used.

Is all of this correct?

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Pretty much. Repairable seems to be becoming more popular than reparable, having once been less popular, presumably because one can "piece it together" rather than having to learn the word.

More interestingly, Irreparable is much more popular than the rest put together, seemingly largely because it has a legal meaning and is often used in hyperbole and analogies.

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The one difference I would suggest is that repairable and unrepairable generally refer to things which are broken; reparable and irreparable (as commonly seen in the phrase "irreparable harm") generally refer to the damage that has been done to those things.

Examples:
- My client's reputation has suffered irreparable harm.
- I dropped my phone in the toilet; it's basically unrepairable.

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unrepairable means things which beyond repair(eg cycle, radio, ...etc) but irreparable means generally using for good human being when departed from the world, they used to say,'his loss is irreparable' that means no substitute for the man.*strong text*

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This is not correct. You would say his loss is irreplaceable. Losses are not repaired, they are replaced. The damage to my car was irreparable. Perfectly acceptable. The damage to his nerves was irreparable. Perfectly acceptable. The loss of this man is irreparable. This is not the proper usage. –  David M Feb 24 at 6:56
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