What is the difference between unexplainable and inexplicable? Are they exact synonyms or are there situations where one is preferred over the other?

Is unexplainable a clumsy modern variant (perhaps only existing due to uneducated usage) or an old word that's fallen out of fashion?

3 Answers 3


Google N-gram Viewer suggests that unexplainable is a recent invention (at least in written form):

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  • way to pull out the n-gram viewer!
    – Rikon
    Sep 29, 2011 at 12:59
  • An NGram of "he inexplicably [did sth]" against unexplainably, shows we simply don't use that second form. Curious, really, given that explain is far more common than explicate overall. Sep 29, 2011 at 15:18

The OED gives the meaning of 'unexplainable' as 'inexplicable'. The oldest citation is dated early eighteenth century, so it's not particularly new and the three citations provided don't suggest it's an uneducated usage.


'Unexplainable' is an American word and yet another bastardized version of English (-: Inexplicable is correct.... and I am a Louisville, Kentucky born and raised 'Yank'.

  • 2
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    – user63230
    Jan 8, 2015 at 3:41

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