What is the difference between impractical and impracticable? The former is the word with which I am familiar.

The dictionary definition seems to indicate that impracticable relates to the inability to accomplish something rather than the merits of doing so. However, other grammatical references, such as Grammarist, indicate that "Impracticable is a synonym of impractical in the definition of being unfeasible or impossible to use."

Is this a matter of degrees, or is there a clear difference?

  • 2
    What did the dictionary tell you?
    – Drew
    Jan 9, 2017 at 18:51
  • I've reviewed the dictionary definition but also web sites such as grammarist.com/usage/impractical-vs-impracticable which indicate that they are actually partially synonymous.
    – anon
    Jan 9, 2017 at 19:21
  • I've updated my question to better reflect the uncertainty I have.
    – anon
    Jan 9, 2017 at 19:30

2 Answers 2



  • Not practical : not wise to put into or keep in practice or effect

"Playing basketball is impractical because there is a hurricane outside."



  • Not practicable : incapable of being performed or accomplished by the means employed or at command; impossible

"Playing basketball is impracticable because we do not have a basketball or a hoop."


Basically, Impracticable is something that cannot be practiced with what you have at your command, while Impractical is something that is unwise to practice.

I do agree that they are synonyms, but I do not think they are generally interchangeable and there is a clear difference in the most common usages.

  • 3
    +1 agree. impractical things can still be practiced, but aren't recommended. like building a stupid border wall for example. Jan 10, 2017 at 14:32

In drafting contacts and similar legal language, I would use the word "Impracticable" to convey a weaker meaning of "not easy, or awkward to make happen, or inconvenient," while the word "impractical" would sometimes be used to convey a stronger meaning that is almost equivalent to "impossible."

  • According to the dictionary you have the terms flipped. impractical = difficult | impracticable = impossible in practice
    – JKFrox
    Jul 25, 2019 at 12:19

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