What is the difference between "lisible" and "legible" ? These are two different words that direct towards the meaning "can be read" but can someone explain in detail ?

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    The main difference is that "legible" is English while "lisible" is French.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 25, 2018 at 11:53
  • Wilfred, please put here quotations from the dictionary where you found these two words and their links. Remember that they must be English dictionaries, as you are asking about the difference between two supposedly English words. Sep 25, 2018 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


Legible means that a text satisfies the most basic requirement for the act of reading: that the symbols — in English letters, words, and punctuation — can be deciphered.

Scrawled on the inside lid of the old discolored Chocolate Box from the late 1800's was a barely legible message, expressing the last wishes of a loving mother. — C. D. Wilson, The Pacific, World War Two, 2009.

Human emotions can also be “read” from facial expressions:

Darwin posited that there were six basic, facially legible emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise – although he discusses many more than these in his text. — Stuart Walton, A Natural History of Human Emotions, 2007.

The word lisible is French, not English, but has been adopted into literary criticism and theory as denoting a concept of the French literary theorist Roland Barthes:

…Barthes discusses those texts which are traditionally intelligible (lisible) and those which, though written, cannot be properly read (scriptable)[sic]. For Barthes, a Fleming novel would be an example of the lisible text (texte de plaisir) and Finnegans Wake (Or 'Bomb Then, Bomb Now') a scriptible (texte de jouissance) one. — Keith Green, Jill LeBihan, Critical Theory and Practice: A Coursebook, 1996, 205.

Since the concepts lisible and scriptible have been bouncing around academic circles since Barthes came up with them in 1974, some authors don’t bother italicizing them, considering them terms of art, while others still do so, indicating foreign origin.

The typographical error — scriptable, which is how English would form the word, instead of the French scriptible — shows the tendency to “English” foreign words even for specialized, technical terms. An attempt at equivalent translation comes up with readerly for lisible and writerly for scriptible.

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    I don't think the word "lisible" has been accepted into literary theory so much as the idea has. Every English result I get for "lisible" is immediately next to an explanation of what it means and its origin, meaning it's not expected to be understood by the English reader, either the specialist or the uninitiated. The terms that do seem to have been adopted are "readerly" and "writerly", which actually has an Encyclopaedia Britannica entry about it. Roland Barthes' Wikipedia page explains these under the subsections readerly and writerly text. This is at least what I found from my searches.
    – Zebrafish
    Sep 25, 2018 at 14:39

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