• Marked by friendliness and a desire to get along


"What's the point of being amicable?" There might be someone in your life who always makes you ask yourself that question. For whatever reason, it's really hard to be civil, much less friendly, with this person. Maybe they've hurt you; maybe things are awkward between the two of you; or maybe you just think this person is a complete jerk. You might feel especially uncomfortable if you’re forced to interact with this person. Is it still worth it to fake politeness and geniality, even if you’d both rather never see each other again? We can't answer that for you, but the good relationship that comes from being amicable, feigned or otherwise, usually saves everybody stress in the long run.

One the most basic level, amicable means "friendly" - throw it up in a conversation, and people will understand that you're using it to describe something, usually a relationship or act of communication, as genial, polite, and pleasant overall. A mailman with an amicable worldview might smile at and say hi to everyone he passes on his route, and as a result he probably has an affable, amicable relationship with everyone he delivers to. A sociable person, a fond rapport, a courteous nod - all examples of things that could be summed up by amicable.

Often, amicable is used specifically when there's a noticeable effort being made to be friendly. This usage implies that the good relationship or cordiality being described isn't coming easily or naturally. You might use it in a situation where people are trying to stay pleasant and cooperative despite the fact that they feel uncomfortable with one another. For instance, a divorce or breakup is sometimes described as amicable if it ends on good terms, especially if the two exes try to remain friends (or at least civil acquaintances) afterwards. People who are amicable in this way may be superficially accommodating to one another, but they're far from bosom buddies. In fact, this friendliness might just be a façade put up for the sake of appearances or to prevent nasty confrontations from happening. Amicable indicates a pleasant, sociable relationship whenever it's used; however, it's up to you to determine whether that harmony is sincere.

Example: Viewers loved the morning show hosts' amicable banter.

Example: The hosts actually hated each other in real life, but remained amicable to keep out of the gossip columns.

Example: Every day before the show, they met each other with mechanically amicable greetings.


You love your friends, right? Maybe you don't look at them romantically, but you probably feel a sincere affection towards them that, when you think about it, is a form of love. Friendship and love are all wrapped up in each other, which might explain why amicable's oldest ancestor is the Latin verb amare, which means "to love." From there, the path to amicable would be fairly straightforward, passing first through fellow Latin word amicus (for "friend" or "companion") and its subsequent adjective, amicabilis (for "friendly" or "pleasant"). Amicable was first recorded in English in the early 15th century with the general meaning of "pleasant." The word's meaning would gradually be refined to reach its modern sense of "friendliness" or "eagerness to get along."

Derivative Words

Amicability, Amicableness: Both of these nouns refer to an attitude or manner of friendliness. The two words may be used interchangeably.

Example: My normally aloof neighbor's sudden amicability caught me off guard.

Example: I wondered if his amicableness was a sign he was about to ask me for a favor.

Amicably: This adverb characterizes a verb, adjective, or other adverb as agreeable or sociable in nature.

Example: The performer waved amicably to the audience as she walked across the stage.

Example: The two companies decided to end their merger talks amicably.

Similar Words

Amiable: Amicable? Amiable? Are lexicographers just trying to mess with everybody? Yes, but that has nothing to do with the similarities between amicable and amiable, two words which are maddeningly separated only by a single letter. Luckily, since they happen to mean almost the same thing, probably no one will misunderstand you if you mix them up. Both adjectives are used to characterize something as friendly or pleasant in nature. The biggest difference between the two is that amicable often specifically describes a relationship or two-sided interaction, while amiable is just as commonly used to describe an individual’s attitude or overall personality. For example, a pleasant, friendly chat with your neighbor could be amiable or amicable. But if your neighbor is just naturally friendly, always whistling cheerfully and waving at people, you’d probably describe her as amiable as opposed to amicable (though either word would work perfectly well). Another difference is that while amiable is almost always used generally, amicable can sometimes imply a forced friendliness, like the kind you might expect between two people who, in reality, don't actually like each other that much.

Still, both of these conventions are far from absolute, and in everyday conversation you may hear amicable used to describe both sincere friendliness and a genial disposition. So, while we usually use this section to caution you not to mix different words up, in this case we're telling you not to be afraid to use these two words interchangeably!

We’d also be doing a disservice to the etymology fans among us if we didn't mention that amicable and amiable share an ancestor in the Latin amicabilis, which means "friendly." But while the English amicable was directly adapted from amicabilis, the linguistic path of amiable would first take a detour through the French word amiable (which shares the same meaning as well as spelling). Amicable and amiable are etymological twins, alike in appearance and sharing the same linguistic genes.

Amity: If you're amicable with someone else, you could say that the two of you share a state of amity. Amity, a noun that means "friendship" or "a harmonious relationship," isn't a derivative of amicable, but the two share an ancestor in the Latin word for friend, amicus. Amity can refer to a friendship of any type, but it's often used specifically to indicate an open, cooperative relationship among nations.

In Literature

From Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Beasts of Tarzan:

Chance had it, though, that he glanced out of the doorway of the cook's tent at the very moment that Kai Shang and Momulla approached the entrance to his, and he thought that he noted a stealthiness in their movements that comported poorly with amicable or friendly intentions, and then, just as they two slunk within the interior, Gust caught a glimpse of the long knife which Momulla the Maori was then carrying behind his back.

It's a good thing Gust wasn't in his tent. Burroughs uses amicable in the general sense of "pleasant and genial" to point out how Kai Shang's and Momulla's behavior is anything but.


  • Amicable: AM I CApable of being sociaBLE

  • Amicable is able to get along


Friendly, Friendship, Harmony, Amity, Love

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of amicable. Did you use amicable in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.