When speaking about something that usually moves but now cannot, which word is better: Immobile or Stationary?

  • "Cannot" is a key word here. If it was "is not", either term would probably be equally used. "Cannot" suggests immobile (or better, immobilized).
    – fixer1234
    Aug 24, 2018 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


I would use the past participial adjective, immobilized, to indicate that something has happened to the thing that has taken away its former mobility. Neither stationary nor immobile conveys that meaning.

P.S. The word immobilized is silent with respect to whether that which has been immobilized will ever be mobile again, but neither does it imply permanence. You would need to say temporarily immobilized or something along those lines if you wanted to indicate that the mobility has been taken away but not permanently. Of course context could also make that clear.

With the patient immobilized, the surgical procedure can proceed.

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  • Does it mean, that later it will be able to move again? Aug 24, 2018 at 11:30
  • @SovereignSun: Please see the P.S.
    – TimR
    Aug 24, 2018 at 11:31

There are two main meanings that these two words represent. The first definition is "can't move". The second definition is "isn't moving now".

Both words can have both meanings. In general, though, immobile has a stronger sense of being unable to move, while stationary has a stronger sense of not moving now.

So simply put, it's your choice. I would probably use "immobile", myself.

  • I'm wondering if this is a regionalized difference. To me, it's somewhat the opposite. Stationary can mean either not moving now or something that isn't intended to move. Immobile is generally used for something intended to be mobile but isn't mobile now. By any chance is there something you can cite that indicates what the "official" meaning is supposed to be?
    – fixer1234
    Aug 24, 2018 at 19:07
  • @fixer1234 I already provided a dictionary definition for both words in my answer. Just click on the word to see the citation. You will note that the first definition for "immobile" is "incapable of being moved".
    – Drazex
    Aug 25, 2018 at 4:30

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