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I am confused between pliable and pliant. What's the difference? The explanation in the Oxford Dictionary seems vague:

pliable
        1. easily bent; flexible
            [quality leather is pliable and will not crack]
        2. easily influenced
            [pliable teenage minds]

pliant
        1. easily bent
            [pliant willow stems]
        2. easily influenced or directed; yielding
            [a more pliant prime minister]
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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

There isn't a difference in meaning; they're synonyms. They are also interchangeable as regards usage; wherever one fits, the other would too. Pliable is more common, though:

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a powerful tool , Google ngram is ;-P –  warl0ck Oct 10 '11 at 0:37
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You can't always trust NGram to make or back up a case, but my own gut feeling is pliable is more likely to be used in its literal sense, and pliant more in the metaphorical sense. The higher prevalence of pliable disappears with pliant/pliable mind/disposition –  FumbleFingers Oct 10 '11 at 0:54
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Just do not forget that pliant also means "being able and willing to accept change or new ideas".

Pliable — substances that can bend easily or person that is easily influenced
Pliantable to be bent easily or able to be influenced easily

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This explanation makes no sense to me. This is like saying that a car can move, while an automobile is able to move. If something can bend, it is also able to be bent. Likewise, someone who is easily influenced is, per definition, someone who is able to be easily influenced. And indeed various dictionaries define pliant as pliable, or vice versa. –  RegDwigнt Aug 18 '12 at 10:44
    
I guess you will need to add some more details to justify this as an answer. The answer as is doesn't deal with OP's concern. –  Noah Sep 17 '12 at 9:29
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