As a former editor, there are two adjectives I’ve seen mixed up more times than I can count, and those are valuable and invaluable. At first, you might think these two are interchangeable, but that’s definitely not correct. So, I’ll explain the meanings of both and show you how to use them correctly.
Invaluable vs. Valuable
They may seem like synonyms of one another, but that’s not the case, even though they’re very similar.
Although invaluable has a negative prefix, it is an adjective meaning extremely useful, indispensable or so valuable that a value can’t be set.
Valuable implies a significant worth, usually in monetary terms. They both indicate worth but in different ways. It’s like comparing a mother’s love for her child (invaluable) to your shiny new car (valuable).
When you call something invaluable, you’re saying it’s priceless, beyond any sort of calculable value. It’s like trying to put a price tag on the feeling you get when you take off your shoes after a long day. Good luck with that. You know it’s important and means a lot to you, but no monetary value is attached to it.
Meanwhile, the word valuable is all about the Benjamins, baby. It means objects or services with considerable worth or merit, usually expressed in monetary terms.
That diamond necklace sitting in your jewelry box that you only break out on special occasions? That’s valuable for its financial worth and its ability to transform any outfit from drab to fab. A dragon’s hoard of gold? Definitely valuable.
The only instance I can think of where valuable doesn’t have a monetary connection would be in the statement “valuable lesson.” When you learn a valuable lesson in life, there’s no price on that, but you know it’s essential.
Seeing other ways to explain the same idea can sometimes give you a better understanding of certain words.
Synonyms for Valuable
- Worth a lot
Valuable Examples in a Sentence
- The painting our local museum just added is a valuable piece from Picasso’s famous Blue Period.
- He offered me some valuable advice about investing in stocks, and I could book a paid consult at any time.
- The antique vase I found at that old estate sale was deemed incredibly valuable by the appraiser I took it to.
- My husband has a valuable collection of comics and nerdy memorabilia items he sells to a collector.
Invaluable Examples in a Sentence
- Jane’s contribution to the publishing project was invaluable; we couldn’t have published this book without her industry expertise.
- My grandfather was the determining factor. The old man’s wisdom proved invaluable in making the tough decision no one in the family wanted to make.
- We hired a guide during our trip to Cuba, and his knowledge of the area was invaluable as we trekked over the backcountry terrain.
- Terry made an invaluable list of the best place to eat in Edmonton.
- No gift is as invaluable as the love I get from my children each day.
Cost vs. Value
I hope this guide helped settle the debate between the terms valuable and invaluable and their respective meanings. A good way to remember the difference is to think of valuable relating to value, aka a monetary number. Invaluable simply has no number and no cost attached to it. It’s so important; you can’t put a price tag on it.