11

I am wondering if a word exists that means that something is capable of being walked on by humans under normal expected load. For example, a roof you know that is strong enough to support normal amount of men working on it with no concerns. Say the word is "pattible". You would use it as;

"The roof is pattible, go on up" "After the storm, I think the roof is inpattible, be careful" "The ice is only pattible between November and February" "Adding a column underneath really helped the pattibility of the bay window"

1
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    May 10, 2020 at 16:51

11 Answers 11

24

I will go so far as to say there isn't such a word: I've searched OED for support and weight and not found any relevant definitions. English tends not to have single words for complex concepts.

However, one adjective which does fit is safe.

The roof is safe, go on up
After the storm, I think the roof is unsafe: be careful
The ice is only safe between November and February

4
  • Yes; subsenses of 'safe' include 'safe when used sensibly' ("Is this medicine safe?" / "Is that ladder safe?") and 'safe when used in the only logical way given any context' {"The winds were very strong last night. Is the roof safe?" ([not] going to collapse on us) // "The boys love climbing, and that disused factory is rather old. Is the roof safe?" ([not] going to collapse under the boys' weight)}. Not too hypernymic to qualify as an answer. But wouldn't work with OP's example 4. But then Spidermen are rare. May 9, 2020 at 11:56
  • 6
    Safe is good, but it works only by virtue of the context in which you've used it (as you imply, at least in part, in your observation re single words for complex concepts). Perhaps stable is a similar possibility. In any event, neither works as a stand-alone, but I agree that such a word most likely does not exist. May 9, 2020 at 17:27
  • Yes to context. Ice can be safe in a skating pond (safe to walk on), or safe in a fishing lake (supports ice-houses). But asking whether river ice is safe wouldn't be as clear. Safe for what? Do you think it hurts the bridge, or causes flooding? Or that cliff divers will be injured? May 10, 2020 at 3:26
  • Context definitely does matter, the problem is there's no word in English that has only this specific meaning. All the possibilities depend on context. It's probably more often encountered in the negative though. The assumption is that it's safe unless you say otherwise. Signs that say things like "unsafe bridge" or "unsafe ice" are common.
    – barbecue
    May 10, 2020 at 5:56
13

A crowdsourced dictionary I've been able to find has "walkable" which sounds a little odd to me (would be perfectly correct if it were German, "begehbar" which is almost a technical term) https://www.dict.cc/englisch-deutsch/walkable.html

Otherwise, how about "safe to stand/walk on [for a single person, for a working team, etc]". Not a single word though.

3
  • 5
    Sounds fine to me. If somebody said "The roof is walkable" or "The ice is only walkable between November and February", I'd know exactly what they meant and I wouldn't find it strange at all. May 9, 2020 at 20:48
  • 2
    In German, I would use "tragfähig", which is bearing-able, sound, able to take a load
    – mafu
    May 10, 2020 at 0:05
  • 3
    While I don't think "walkable" is typically used in such a manner, if someone said that, I would certainly understand what they meant, and I don't think the sentence would sound odd.
    – Herohtar
    May 10, 2020 at 5:41
9

I've seen the terms "man safe", "mansafe" and "man-safe" used, especially in the UK, to describe high places that are equipped with fall protection. Also scaffold netting that is designed strong enough to prevent a person from breaking through it and falling. Although this is not the exact scenario you describe, it's not much of a stretch to use this term for a surface that will safely support a human.

Example: http://www.theplagroup.co.uk/man-safe-systems/ (I have no connection to this business.)

1
  • 2
    Human-rating certification "man-rating" : man-rated. (im)passable fits OP's context. But the question is what the safety factor is. Ultimately, if the area is to be deemed occupiable or habitable space, it will be of a construction rated to do so as per all appreciable codes. Otherwise it dose not meet(s) code.
    – Mazura
    May 9, 2020 at 20:22
7

I'd propose "traversable". While it does not specify by what means (a car bridge would likely warrant more strength than a pedestrian bridge to earn that title), for structures like roofs, this seems rather unambiguous.

"man bearing" would be a bit more specific but it feels more awkward.

4
  • 1
    I feel traversable tends to be more about obstacles -- a way through an otherwise untraversable jungle. An ice flow might be described as "having a traversable path, but it might not support a large man's weight". Try "is this bridge traversable?" -- it sounds wrong, like you're asking if there's a way to driving around the many stalled cars. May 10, 2020 at 2:48
  • The post is asking for "walkonable" but since that's not a word (yet) I very much like traversable.
    – thorr18
    May 10, 2020 at 3:53
  • Walkability - traversable, unambiguous through context, +1
    – Mazura
    May 10, 2020 at 19:28
  • However, going from the content of that Wikipedia page (state as of 18 April 2020), that's a dedicated socioeconomic term referring to friendliness of an area (as in neighborhood) to walking, as a concept in sustainable urban design. Jun 11, 2020 at 23:37
6

The word 'sturdy' comes to mind

Someone or something that is sturdy looks strong and is unlikely to be easily injured or damaged.

(Collins)

5

How about strength/strong?

"The roof is strong enough, go on up." or

"The roof is not strong enough."

"The ice is strong enough."

"Adding a column really improved the strength of the bay window."

It doesn't directly address the concept of a human's weight, but it could easily be used with "enough" to indicate that you will not fall through and die if you walk on the thing, which could be a bridge, a roof, a frozen lake, or a deck, etc.

3

(un)sound

1a : free from injury or disease
of sound mind

b : free from flaw, defect, or decay
sound timber

2a : solid, firm
sound construction

Merriam-Webster

Entry forbidden. The roof is unsound.

Watch where you step. The plywood's rotten but the joists are still sound.

2
  • Sound in this sense means "fit for its intended purpose". Floors and bridges are meant to be walked on, so a sound floor means walkable. A sound roof might, if you know roofs can normally be walked on. But a sound greenhouse roof would not imply walkability. I've never heard lake ice referred to as sound. May 10, 2020 at 3:06
  • You can tell by the sound: walking on the ice of the sound would be unsound for it is soundly unsound. - Ice is either (im)passable if aboard a ship, or (un)traversalable via land. - "the ice was unsound" : 9 hits; mostly Viking books. One of them is about Michigan (lotta little lakes in MI). No one is going to warn you if it is sound (which is interesting because "the ice was sound" has 10k hits).
    – Mazura
    May 10, 2020 at 19:43
2

Person-bearing.

While this might not be legal play in Scrabble™, it's going to be understood in nearly every context, even when it has to provide the context. It is specific enough, and similar enough to other "-bearing" words, that it would work in a commercial or legal context.

Admittedly it sounds stupid:

But with snowshoes, they found it person-bearing, and set off into the bright morning.

If that joist is person-bearing, could we hang the swing there?

Stop! This is not a person-bearing attachment point.

The person-bearing components are constructed from rich Corinthian leather and carefully tested before leaving the factory.

But it will do the job, despite there being much more idiomatic ways of saying nearly everything.

1
  • If it's clear that the "load" is a person, you could just say "load bearing". For instance "The ceiling in my attic isn't load bearing; if you walk on it, you will fall through". May 11, 2020 at 15:22
0

If you're looking for a single word then it would most likely be a word that relates to the health of the roof, as in "The roof is viable" or "The roof is finished."

More often though English speakers (particularly in developed countries with enforced building codes) would assume a roof is both functional and of sufficient load-bearing capacity that is safe (nod to Andrew Leach's answer) to walk on. As such the negative case would be more common to indicate an exception, such as "The roof is compromised" or "The roof is unfinished."

1
  • Compromised, or it wasn't built to code in the first place, +1. IDK a single word for built to code, or I would have used it about 600 times by now. - is in compliance isn't any less words...
    – Mazura
    May 9, 2020 at 20:33
0

You could talk about a walk-on material or object.

You can make an image search for 'walk on glass' for example (in common usage the hyphen often is dropped, alas). Glass is generally perceived as a brittle material, so the attribute 'walk-on' conveys a guarantee that this is safe, and safe for walking. Contrariwise, think of the expression walking on broken glass.

Out of my search the walk-on predicate seems to refer to individual structural component (a single glass panel) rather than to a entire architectural compound (a roof or floor). Probably you may well think of a walk-on roof made of a walk-on glass, hence mention a walk-on roof directly. And, then, import the same expression regardless of any material it is made of.

Leaning on the analogy with fail-safe and man-safe, I would give a go to walk-safe.
No mother-tongue speaker though.

0

Here a member of the North American construction industry mentioned (2016, emphasis mine)

the term "walkable roof" does exist, but does not have the meaning that you want

instead that's a roof that is (perfectly flat or) sufficiently limited in slope that a craftsman could work on it without using dedicated safety measures.

The same post goes on to explain in a comment that (emphasis mine)

In North America anyways, types of flat roof are normally named by the type of material making up the watertight layer ... Any of these ... can be [made] friendly to human traffic, but one wouldn't normally name the roof according to this factor

This would, then, be another aspect of how it seemingly doesn't work well with the structure of English as a language to be looking for a single word that has the required properties.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.