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What are general rules of thumb for creating adjectives with -able? I wanted to denote an object as having an ability to be tiled, but "tileable" and "tilable" both yielded as incorrect words by spell check and standard English dictionary used by Mac OS X dictionary widget. Is "tileable" or "tilable" a correct word/form for denoting an object having an ability to be tiled?

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YourDictionary gives 'tileable' (the mathematical sense has been around for many years). Use better dictionaries. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 13 at 17:40
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The way I see it, you've got two choices here if the word doesn't already have an acceptable -able suffix counterpart. Either

  1. Reword the sentence so you don't need to use the -able suffix
  2. Hyphenate it. E.g. tile-able.

Although, Googling it, 'tileable' seems to be pretty widely used anyway.

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I am a developer so I wanted to use this word in a camel cased constant. Something like TileableObjectType in constants is more often used than ObjectThatCanBeTiled. – Eimantas Jan 28 '11 at 13:54
TileableObjectType should be fine, then, IMO! That or TileMeBabyPlease. – billynomates Jan 28 '11 at 14:00

As the NOAD reports, -able is a suffix forming adjectives meaning:

  • able to be: calculable.
  • due to be: payable.
  • subject to: taxable.
  • relevant to or in accordance with: fashionable.
  • having the quality to: suitable, comfortable.

The meaning of tile-able would be to be able to be tiled. The spelling checker I am using reports the word as wrong, but it suggests also tile-able.
As reported in Common Sense (ISBN 13: 978-0-312-34255-5; ISBN 10: 0-312-34255-1), a book about punctuation marks, a hyphen is used in words consisting of a prefix and a root, if not using one will cause to run together either two vowels or a small letter and a capital.

  • anti-inflammatory
  • un-American
  • extra-alkaline
  • pre-Christian
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So the dash is mandatory? – Eimantas Jan 28 '11 at 14:44
I added that part to the answer, as that should be explained. – kiamlaluno Jan 28 '11 at 14:52
So it's write-able? – AndreKR Dec 7 '11 at 1:32
@AndreKR It's writable. – kiamlaluno Dec 7 '11 at 2:16
Just writeable, esp., if it's a disc (disk). – Kris Dec 7 '11 at 7:28

The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style by Bryan A. Garner has a helpful list under ‑able, including the choice between ‑able and ‑ible, attaching ‑able to nouns, to intransitive verbs, converting ‑ate verbs into ‑able adjectives, and even on dropping or retaining the medial ‑e‑.

A quick reference table is on the Oxford Reference. You can try the Google Books source at ODAUS p4 for the detailed treatment.

Survey of English Spelling by Edward Carney explains some etymological (source language) factors of the “spelling problem”.

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Thanks, @tchrist – Kris Dec 2 '12 at 7:48

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