If something is fit/okay for consumption, we use these words. While I find edible most commonly on the labels of anything eatable/edible, this raises the doubt whether eatable is understood by all.

My homework: I went through some forums. I liked an example of a fish. Fish is edible but I don't like fish so it's not eatable for me. This means anything that is fit to consume is edible but anything not eatable is a personal choice.

The doubt further perplexes me as I find this (note my examples in the brackets) -

eatable - fit to be consumed as food (a smartphone is not eatable).
eatable - good enough to be eaten (stale food is not eatable but if I ignore the health hazards, it's edible right because it's not a smartphone?)

  • just say edible.
    – hunter
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 10:37

3 Answers 3


Eatable is hardly ever used. As a matter of fact, I can't think of a single time that I have ever used that word except to tell the reader that edible is a word that will always work better.

  • That's true – in modern English. Interesting Ngram on this one.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 12:07
  • Nice. Well there ya go. Eatable is barely a word anymore. Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 12:10
  • 1
    no downvoting but did you really answer my question? I think this better goes as additional knowledge but in as a comment! :)
    – Maulik V
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 13:06
  • 3
    That's true, but I'm saying there is no good answer to your question because the "word" in question is so archaic as to not be a word. Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 13:14

There is no semantic difference between the two words.

The suffix "-able" connotes a hard limit of possibility in either case, and will not be understood to delimit preferences.

As Jolenealaska has said, "eatable" is no longer in use, so you will only ever need knowledge of it to understand that someone writing in previous centuries is indicating that something can be eaten.


I found one whole website on eatable flowers so "eatable" isn't dead yet. Its perhaps more of an emphasis be able to be eaten by itself using your mouth as against "edible" being usable for food. Cinnamon is edible but try eating a tablespoon- its not eatable due to its extreme dryness. Its not a hard and fast definitional distinction.


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