I'm asking someone for a reference letter, and almost used the word amenable. Looked it up, and definitely hesitated when the definition was "easily persuaded or controlled".

I would like to list you as a reference, if you are amenable to that.

I don't want to call a professional "easily persuaded or controlled". Call me crazy, but I thought that the connotation of the word was 'a pleasant person'. Any opinions here?

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    In this case, it is not a derogatory description; to be amenable to NP is an idiom, common in requests for favors, as here; it means to agree with NP, at least temporarily. Similar to if you're agreeable with that, if you will agree to do so, at your convenience, and a thousand other formulaic phrases with the same import. Commented May 15, 2015 at 19:11
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    Yeah, it basically mans "agreeable" in such a context.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


Any negative connotations of amenable would be connected to a general susceptibility to the control of others. In many particular situations, and even in some general situations, amenability is seen as an admirable trait of flexibility:


1 Open and responsive to suggestion; easily persuaded or controlled:
parents who have amenable children

1.1 (amenable to) Capable of being acted upon in a particular way; susceptible:

The historical use of the amenable is consistent with the negative connotations of intimidation:

1590s, "liable,"
from Anglo-French amenable, Middle French amener "answerable" (to the law),
from à "to" (see ad-) + mener "to lead," from Latin minare "to drive (cattle) with shouts,"
variant of minari "threaten" (see menace (n.)).
Sense of "tractable" is from 1803, from notion of disposed to answer or submit to influence.

In the context of the OP, the predicative amenable to that suggests the positive particular disposition. But if we were concerned that a prospective reference is a control freak, who would be offended at the suggestion of intimidation in any situation, we could avoid all doubt by using the synonym agreeable:

2 [PREDICATIVE] Willing to agree to something:

I would like to list you as a reference, if you are agreeable with that.

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    +1, At times the "agreeability" here is even extended to apply to the circumstances directly, as in, 'that (the circumstances) would be amenable" and "the circumstances are amenable".
    – user98990
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 21:52

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