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While the meaning of the word estimatable is quite clear, it is not a real English word. Is there such a real English word with the same meaning?

In case it helps, this is based on the INVEST user stories in Agile1. The E stands for Estimatable aka "should be be possible to estimate".

I am, of course, happy for such a word not to exist. If so, how would you phrase it so that it still makes sense in the above context?


1: Erick G Hagstrom pointed that the INVEST was coined by Bill Wake who uses E – Estimable.

  • 1
    If *estimatable existed, it would mean it is possible to estimate this, not it should be possible.. The difference is important only in technical contexts, of which I would guess AGILE is one. – Tim Lymington Jan 17 '14 at 12:13
  • Possibly predictable if you mean strongly estimatable. – Cruncher Jan 17 '14 at 16:58
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    Actually, the E stands for Estimable, used to mean able to be estimated. Bill Wake created the INVEST acronym and wrote the original article on the subject. It can be found at xp123.com/articles/invest-in-good-stories-and-smart-tasks. But like you, I prefer Estimatable. – Erick G. Hagstrom Aug 1 '16 at 13:47
23

Why is estimatable not a real English word? The -able suffix is productive, and dictionaries very often do not include words which can be deduced from their constituent parts, particularly since they can only include words in reasonably common usage. There is a trade-off: if they do not include words which can be broken down easily and their component parts looked up, there is more space for slightly less common words which can't be deduced as easily.

ODO has

-able suffix

forming adjectives meaning:
1. able to be:
    calculable

Estimatable means able to be estimated.

  • 3
    +1! I remember once hearing an Italian exchange student tell a Venezuelan (about learning English/vocabulary), "... and if you still can't figure out the right word, make one up. They do it all the time!" Just because we "make up" a word, doesn't mean it's meaningless! Language is about communication, and if a construct is able to clearly convey meaning, there's nothing wrong with it. – Brian S Jan 17 '14 at 16:39
  • @BrianS Up to a point. Issual, for example, is not to be preferred to issue; or expiration to expiry. -able can be added to more-or-less anything, but even there there are special forms like calculable rather than calculatable. – Andrew Leach Jan 17 '14 at 17:13
  • There's certainly a limit (moderation in all things, etc.), agreed. – Brian S Jan 17 '14 at 17:17
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    So making up words should be moderable? – Chris Cudmore Jan 17 '14 at 17:32
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    Or moderatable! – nxx Jan 17 '14 at 17:52
7

Estimable certainly is a real English word, and, as any good dictionary will tell you, it means 'worthy of great respect'. It doesn't mean is 'capable of being estimated'. I know of no single word that means that.

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    He is saying 'estimatable' isn't a real word, but of course you're right that he's also misusing estimable. – user24964 Jan 17 '14 at 11:46
  • Thank you. Read too quickly, and I have now edited my answer accordingly. – Barrie England Jan 17 '14 at 11:49
  • Yes, indeed. I'll blame dyslexia for that one... Silly me. Of course estimable is fine but indeed does not mean 'capable of being estimated'! – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jan 17 '14 at 12:14
  • There are dictionaries on the surface web( and not the deep web )which states otherwise(estimable has multiple meaning :worthy of respect and able to be estimated),but I feel (intuition and not innuendo)there must be a better word for being estimable(which a stats person might now @cross validated)-:(using " surface web" is an innuendo(insinuation)that this question could have been easily referred on the net) – Argot Jan 17 '14 at 13:39
2

As Andrew Leach says in his answer, it is not not a real word; in fact, Google Scholar shows 1880 results of the word "estimatable".

While not a large enough number of uses to make it standard usage, a quick scroll shows that most of the publications are in mathematics and statistics (and, of course, here the results are limited to scholarly articles). The sciences often "create" words, and these words can well become standard usage within a particular field. A similar example would be "rounding", as in "going on rounds", commonly used in nursing but not in standard dictionaries with that definition.

My search for "estimatable" in normal Google mostly brings up either the same sort of usage or questions about its usage (such as this).

As such, I would say it is safe to use in the particular context in which it does currently get used, but not formally elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good alternatives off the top of my head.

1

Estimable means (among other things) 'Capable of being estimated, valued, or appraised' (OED). So no need for 'estimatable', which is probably used because people assume estimable only means 'worthy of esteem or regard'.

(I would say 1880 hits in Google Scholar counts as a 'real word' but I prefer 'estimable' as it was already there, fits the need, is easier to type and sounds far less clunky.)

  • That definition is marked "Obs.". – Erick G. Hagstrom Aug 1 '16 at 13:42
  • My 1996 edition of the Oxford Compact English Dictionary does not include "capable of being estimated" as a definition of Estimable. Possibly the addition is too small to include it or the evolution of the meaning happened more recently. Esteem and Estimate are quite different words so I am not certain they can be conflated in this way comfortably. Are you certain it is listed as this in a more recent edition or the OED? – TafT Oct 30 '18 at 9:50

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