Peaceable vs. peaceful

  • Peaceable and peaceful are usually used interchangeably, but their conventional definitions differ slightly. Peaceable, meaning inclined to peace, is more likely to describe people and groups of people, whereas peaceful, meaning undisturbed by turmoil or disagreement, is more likely to apply to events and situations. But these distinctions are treated loosely and are not consistently borne out in real-world use.




    We believe our world is riddled with terror and war, but we may be living in the most peaceable era in human existence. [Wall Street Journal]

    The arrests were the only signs of trouble in the otherwise peaceful march. [Los Angeles Times]

    That is why city centres are no-go areas for peaceable folk on Friday and Saturday nights. [Telegraph]

    The group remained peaceful as they weaved their way through city streets. [CTV]

    Werner focuses on more peaceable female cows rather than bulls or oxen. [Winnipeg Free Press]

    There were several clashes between the rioters and demonstrators who wanted the protest to remain peaceful. [Guardian]


    1. I see a BIG difference.  That it has been used interchangeably doesn’t mean that it should be.  “Peaceful” means tranquil, without disturbance.  “Peaceable” means inclined to avoid argument or violent conflict.  So, a “peaceful” protest would be virtually silent, not disturbing others.  A “peaceable” protest would be non-violent, but could disturb others.

    About Grammarist
    Contact | Privacy policy | Home
    © Copyright 2009-2014 Grammarist