I'm a native English speaker and I've learned the word "comfortable" by example, but based on the structure of the word and all of the other examples of "V-able" that I've heard, it seems that "comfortable" is usually used inaccurately.

To say "I am comfortable" would seem to mean "I can be comforted", but most people would seem to think it means "I have been comforted".

Does "V-able" not mean "can be V-ed"?

Is there a more accurate word for the way most native speakers would seem to use "comfortable"?

We say "I am pleased", not "I am pleasable".

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    Just as sensible usually means has sense, but could also mean able to be sensed, comfortable usually means has comfort, but could also mean able to be comforted. May 19, 2018 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


Originally the word referred to something that provided (was able to provide) spiritual comfort. The meaning later extended to providing physical comfort and also being the recipient of that comfort.


To say the modern meaning of the word is "wrong" is an example of the etymological fallacy.


You're going to run into a lot of trouble if you're bothered by inconsistency in the meaning of suffixes. There are other "irregularly" formed -able words, like reliable and dependable (we say that we rely on or depend on something), and there are also other derived words that have developed meanings that don't correspond exactly to the meaning of the base word (for example, the adverbs practically and virtually are often used to mean "nearly, almost" in a way that doesn't mesh very well with the literal or original meanings of the words practical and virtual).

With a non-technical word like comfortable, it really doesn't make much sense to say that it is "usually used inaccurately". The meaning is defined by the usage.

If you really want a different word for it, you can check a thesaurus. Thesaurus.com shows some words with similar meanings, like cozy, snug, relaxed, contented. But vague words like this generally don't have exact synonyms.

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