Is there any difference between the words "habitable", and "inhabitable"?

As far as I understand they both mean:

Suitable to be lived in or on.

3 Answers 3


That's right, they both mean the same thing. The OED even defines 'inhabitable' as 'habitable'.

  • This is true of a lot of words, such as flammable and inflammable, which are synonyms (resulting in some dangerous confusions).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 10:03
  • In my experience "habitable" tends to refer to buildings (there is a distinction between habitable and non-habitable extentions to dwellings for instance) but "inhabitable" tends to refer to environments. For example it is thought that it would be possible (just about) to terraform Mars to make it inhabitable but that Mercury is completely uninhabitable.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 8:44
  • See english.stackexchange.com/q/57144/73094 Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 14:17

From what I looked up, Inhabitable: means conditions able to live in. Habitable: conditions good enough to live in. So what I understand, its inhabitable to live at sea level grounds, but its also habitable on the top of the himalayas.


The difference is in the pronunciation of inhabitable as one pronunciation means habitable and the other pronunciation means not habitable or uninhabitable ie. in-habit-able means habitable in-ha-bitable means uninhabitable as in inhospitable means not hospitable. I faced this problem in a sentence saying its estimated that there are 50 million inhabitable planets in our galaxy which I later amended to habitable planets as inhabitable can be interpreted in 2 opposite ways whereas habitable can be interpreted only in 1 way.

The original meaning of inhabitable was always not habitable, but somewhere along the way some bright spark decided to use inhabitable as meaning habitable. This then caused a major confusion which can only be explained as I've stated earlier by deciphering the pronunciation. Anyway, if people don't mind the confusion, by all means use inhabitable, but if you want to specify clearly the meaning you should use only habitable.

  • 1
    Sorry, sir, I don't agree. Inhabitable and habitable both mean "capable of being lived in" and, usually, by humans. An unheated stable can be lived in by horses but would not be suitable for people. The opposite of habitable and inhabitable is uninhabitable. The nearest thing to a negative of habitable is non-habitable.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 8:37
  • Please use the edit feature to update your answer, rather than posting a new answer. Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 14:05

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