I have noticed that people use 'debatable' a lot, while 'arguable' is used quite less.
What's the difference and when should one use one or the other?

  • 2
    your question has nothing to doubt..
    – Misti
    Jan 13, 2015 at 18:23
  • 2
    It's debatable whether there's a difference. But arguable that there is.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 13, 2015 at 19:14
  • 1
    ngram on this pair is nice: books.google.com/ngrams/… Debatable is older, and has always been the more popular term. Debatable's been on the downslope since the late 70's, but arguable's taken an even steeper slide since 2000. Jan 13, 2015 at 20:13

3 Answers 3


According to Merriam-Webster, both these words can be used to refer to something the truth of which is in doubt:


2a : open to dispute : questionable


1 : open to argument, dispute, or question

However, a second meaning for arguable is

that can be plausibly or convincingly argued

That is, arguable can be used to describe a proposition which someone wishes to present as true. Debatable, on the other hand (especially in light of the apparent synonymy of questionable), is often used to describe a proposition which someone wishes to present as false or at least unlikely; see for example Merriam-Webster's sample phrase

the debatable wisdom of going back for another helping from the buffet

which, it seems, would indicate that going back is presented as unwise.


Debatable means it could go either way. Arguable means that one can make a good case to support the issue/opinion.

  • it could go either way, it's doubtable.
    – Manish
    Jan 13, 2015 at 19:57

In some meanings, and idioms

  • A debate is a friendly discussion where people take sides.
  • An argument, is what happens on Facebook - not very friendly.

In person, a debate is polite speech, yelling indicates arguing.

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