Word Confusion: Practicable versus Practical

Posted February 2, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

At first glance, practicable and practical mean the same thing, except that practicable is the possibilities, how feasible this idea might be. Practical, on the other hand, is more realistic and is the commonsense way of actually doing.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Practicable Practical
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: practicable and practical

A black-and-white photograph looking south over Flathead Lake

“Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean” are by Joseph Henry and Spencer Fullerton Baird with the U.S. War Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with no restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

Mapping out routes for railroad tracks was an exercise in the practicable.

Hammering nails into a 1x4

“Hammering Nails” is Baminnick’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Using a hammer to pound in nails is very practical.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective Adjective

Able to be done or put into practice successfully

  • Able to be used
  • Useful



[Theater; of a stage property or part of a set] Designed or constructed for actual use


Of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas

  • [Of an idea, plan, or method] Likely to succeed or be effective in real circumstances
  • Feasible
  • Suitable for a particular purpose or use
  • [Of a person] Sensible and realistic in their approach to a situation or problem
  • [Of a person] Skilled at manual tasks

Mindful of the results, usefulness, advantages or disadvantages, etc., of action or procedure


Consisting of, involving, or resulting from practice or action

Of, relating to, or concerned with ordinary activities, business, or work

Engaged or experienced in actual practice or work

Inclined toward or fitted for actual work or useful activities

The measures will be put into effect as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Signal processing can let you transform a signal into a practicable form.

There are two obvious practical applications of the research.

Neither of these strategies is practical for smaller businesses.

It was a practical, stylish kitchen.

I’m not unfeeling, just trying to be practical.

Steve’ll fix it — he’s quite practical.

It was a practical certainty that he would try to raise more money.

She was a practical politician credited with much legislation.

He’s a habitual dreamer, who can’t be bothered with practical affairs.

Yes, but we’re looking for a practical person to fill this position.

Adjective: nonpracticable
Adverb: practicably
Noun: nonpracticableness, nonpracticability, practicability, practicableness
Adjective: nonpractical
Adverb: nonpractically
Noun: nonpracticalness, nonpracticality, practicality, practicalness
History of the Word:
Mid-17th century from the French praticable, which is from pratiquer meaning put into practice. Late 16th century from the archaic practic meaning practical (from the Old French practique, via the late Latin from the Greek praktikos meaning concerned with action, from prattein meaning do, act) + -al.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Perkulator” is Andreaze’s own work under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 licenses and “Kaffemaschine” is User:Karl Gruber’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license with both via Wikimedia Commons.