Printable Version
Pronunciation: kred-ê-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Believable, plausible, likely.

Notes: The confusion between this word and creditable has gone so far in the US that American dictionaries (Merriam-Webster, American Heritage) lists "believable" as a legitimate meaning of that word. British dictionaries disagree: creditable should mean "deserving of credit". If we make the distinction, we're on solid ground all over the English-speaking world. The noun for today's word is credibility and the adverb, credibly. The negative is incredible.

In Play: Credibility is often an issue in court: "I don't think his mother would make a credible witness as to his whereabouts on the night of the crime." However, it is often useful outside the courthouse: "There is no credible excuse for his putting a frog in the water cooler."

Word History: This is another example of English helping itself from the French lexical table, this time to crédible. French inherited its word from Latin credibilis, an adjective based on credere "to believe". Latin inherited this word from a PIE compound kerd-dhe- "to believe", literally "to do/make (with) one's heart", based on the PIE word kerd-/kord- "heart". We find remnants of kerd-/kord- all over the Indo-European world. Latin cor, cordis "heart" went into the making of French cœur, Portuguese coração, and Spanish corazón. English heart and German Herz were passed down from their Proto-Germanic ancestor. Latin cors, cordis went into the making of the English borrowings cordial and courage. Greek kardia "heart" underlies such English borrowings as cardiac and cardiology.

Dr. Goodword,

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