saleable vs sellable

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JackInMadrid, May 27, 2007.

  1. Is there any difference between these two?

    Thanks for any help

    Jack :)
  2. volky

    volky Senior Member

    Puerto Rico, USA
    saleable (also: salable)- possible to sell, offered or suitable for sale; marketable

    sellable: marketable, merchantable, sellable, vendable, vendible

    Based on the definitions I would say that yes, they are the same. They both are adjectives as well.
  3. Thats what I think, and backed it up with various dictionaries but she claims they are slightly different.

    I think I'm right. Thanks

    Jack :)
  4. volky

    volky Senior Member

    Puerto Rico, USA
    Good luck with "her". ;)
  5. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English

    Can you give us some hint as to what "she" believes is the difference.

    Although I think the words generally mean the same thing, I would be more likely to call a house saleable. I would mean that it is an attractive house in contrast to being sellable because I've reduced the price to make it an irresistable bargain (even though the place is a dump).
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Regardless of the definitions, saleable is used with some frequency in AE, while sellable is used considerably less.

    Results 1 - 20 of about 1,390,000 for saleable These are the google results for sites not using the .uk suffix.

    Results 1 - 20 of about 552,000 for sellable
  7. AWordLover, your take on their meaning is exactly the same as my mum's. She's quite happy now haha

    I guess the dictionary definitions are the same but the use of them by some may be as you and my mum have said.

    Thanks for the responses

    Jack :)
  8. aefavant Member

    Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
    UK, English/Portuguese(Br)
    ´Saleable´ kind of jars...
    ´Sellable´ sounds more natural. Although I understand your point and the line you´ve drawn between them.
  9. Punchrock New Member

    I believe a slight difference, example - Sellable, easy - it can be sold. Sell - Able.

    Saleable, could mean an item which can be included in a 'Sale' Sale - Able.

    You can see that in a retail environment, it would mean something quite different.

    Saleable, may mean its only good for a sale, a second, or an old stock item.

    HTH Hope this helps!
  10. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I think punchrock's explanation is more apparent than real. I have never heard the word saleable used to mean that it could be put in a sale. The suffix -able usually goes after a verb and in punchrock's explanation, sale is a noun. I would avoid this supposed meaning.:thumbsup:
  11. Punchrock New Member

    I can only speak of my experiences, my family have been in business and differentiated between the two words for at least my lifetime 60 years odd, its it mentioned in the ledgers from Queen Victorias era, we had the Royal Charter back then. I found it very refreshing that I found this subject on a forum, 'English as she is spoke' perhaps?
  12. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Perhaps you meant something like this: saleable - capable of being sold; fit for sale; e.g. "saleable at a low price"
  13. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    In my business experience in the U.S., "saleable" (or "salable") would be used in document describing the condition of goods. If they are in saleable condition it is possible to put them on the shelf and sell them. It doesn't mean, in my experience, that they must be discounted or included in some sort of sale. I've seen it often in a negative statement. "Sellable" would look very odd to me in a business context.

    "The goods arrived in saleable condition." :tick:
    "The goods arrived in sellable condition." :cross:

    The second one sounds as odd to me as if someone said:

    "The goods arrived in buyable condition." :cross:

    Sellable and buyable are both legitimate words and there is nothing wrong with the grammar of "sellable condition" or "buyable condition". I'm just saying that it is not my experience that these phrases are used in a business context. "Saleable" is a synonym of "merchantable" to me.

    If I were sorting through odds and ends in my garage for a yard sale, I would probably say to my wife "This looks like it's sellable". If I were at work and writing up a document about the condition of goods I would use "saleable".
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2011
  14. Punchrock New Member

    Well fit for a sale, yes, when you put something in a sale, I noted it in the ledgers, saleable as in - mark it down, my father used it in this way. I personally wouldnt use it for any other meaning. Sellable to me is just something i put on ebay when no longer required.
    But then English is a dying art, in some shops I barely get a grunt in conversation, let alone please and thank you. Thank Heaven i taught my kids better!

    Mind you, looking at the age of this thread, its probably only you and I looking at it anyway!!
  15. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    The definition is not "fit for a sale" but "fit/suitable for sale". The definition doesn't imply that it must be marked down. This may have been a quirk of your father's, sorry to say. It doesn't match the dictionary definition. It's not something that has changed over time, as far as I know.

    The Farmer's Magazine, 1857

    Steady supplies of stock have reached the metropolitan market from Ireland, via Liverpool, in good saleable condition.

    The Building News and Engineering Journal, 1868

    The principal holders of stocks in this country care not to shed their timber, and the smaller merchants only have a care upon their best goods, whereas the common goods have need of the most shelter to keep them in a saleable condition.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2011
  16. Punchrock New Member

    James, point taken, its not a family idiosyncrasy though, may be area thing. I am born in the Isle of Wight, and my family lived in the same house for 300 years. We can trace our family back to 1510 with a few gaps. We use 'We' when only one person is meant, and we say doos when we mean does. So who knows, I asked my son about saleable/sellable and without prompting he suggested saleable meant less value as opposed to sellable. Nurture maybe, but i dont recall ever discussing this before. Oxford English Dictionary says Saleable = fit for sale. Sellable is just the adjective of Sell. So you can see that quality is inferred "fit for sale"
  17. Punchrock New Member

    Did they even have "Sales" then?
  18. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
  19. Punchrock New Member

    Actually, I am surprised its not earlier than that, especially as its Scandinavian in origin, what did they call the damaged in transit goods sold on the dockside?
  20. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    So you're saying that this clause on the site (from the Isle of Wight Council) is saying that the goods must be returned in a condition that would require them to be sold at a discount?
    You may cancel your Order for any reason before delivery or within 30 days after the date of delivery. The Goods must be unused, as new, in saleable condition and returned in their original packaging wherever possible.

    Or these terms on the FM Helmets (a division of Isle of Wight Motorcyles) website:
    All goods must be returned in 'as new' saleable condition along with affixed labels the box or branded packaging. Please securely wrap the parcel to avoid any damage or the possibility of it splitting open whilst in transit.

    To me, this is standard terminology that means the goods must be returned in such a condition that they can be sold to someone else, not in a condition of lower value.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2011
  21. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Who are they and do you have any references for this as to when the practise started? My knowledge of shipping cargoes indicates that they would be known as "damaged goods."

    Even if you did find references, would it show that the goods were described as "saleable" because they went into an auction sale, or because they could simply be sold - i.e. they were saleable.
  22. Punchrock New Member

    Well you proved my case James, thank you, the "as new" preceding it, the writer didnt say 'saleable' in isolation. Although to be fair, the references could be written by anybody.
  23. Punchrock New Member

    Paul, Well 'they' is the case in point, who is qualified to give the answer. I doubt very much if we will find it on the internet, I did find an entry many years ago in my families history relating to soldiers coming back from the Napoleonic wars, the selling of goods for widows and orphans, the spoils of war. The goods from salvage were often 'sold' in 'sales' but I agree with you would anyone differentiate between the two. By virtue of the fact that the sale is taking place at the dockside could already imply that the goods were reject. I am not talking about merchants inspecting their landed goods, wood for example, the top approx 10% would be scrapped because of water damage this would often be sold at the dockside.
  24. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    The fact of the matter is that the word is simply not used to mean "sold at a discount". It means "suitable for sale". Here are more examples. I doubt this will change your mind, but it will provide other material for people who haven't already decided its meaning. definition&f=false
    You know that a SKU is the lowest level of identification that leads to a saleable product. definition&f=false

    Many everyday products are only made usable and thus saleable because of their surface treatment. definition&f=false

    An overhead cost is defined in the CIMA Terminology at 'expenditure on labour, materials or services that cannot be economically identified with a specific saleable cost unit'. processing&f=false
    We look at the yield ratio of processing iron ore into saleable steel as a whole. defined&f=false
    Saleable Underwoods. -- The statute of Elizabeth especially refers to saleable underwoods, and specifically makes them rateable. In the early cases, saleable underwoods were defined as being "wood which grows expeditiously, sends up many shoots from one stool, the root remaining perfect, from which the shoots are cut, and producing new shoots, and so yielding a succession of profits." goods saleable&f=false
    The term 'inventory' is used to designate the aggregate of those items of tangible assets which are (1) held for sale in the ordinary course of business, (2) in the process of production for such sales, or (3) to be currently consumed in the production of goods or services to be available for sale. Thus, inventory means and includes any one or all of the following:

    Finished goods ('saleable')
    Work-in-progress ('convertible')
    Materials and supplies ('consumable')
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  25. Punchrock New Member

    Its OK James, really I was pointing out the inconsistencies of English, we genuinely do perceive a difference between the two, I competely agree with you when I am off the Island, so I cant be convinced, across 5 miles of water the dialect completely changes. Who is 'Qualified' to rule on it, would an American take any notice of the Queens English? I think not. Publishers often re write novels for the US market. I never use either saleable or sellable, I just wouldnt structure the sentence in that way. Mind you, you have reminded me how much time it takes to keep up with forums, my son often re writes alot of my material. I probably wont comment again preferring to sit on the side lines. Thanks for the replies, its appreciated.
  26. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    As a note, the Statute of Elizabeth (1571) was written before there was a U.S. That's one of the citations (about "saleable underwoods"). CIMA is the Charter Institute of Management Accountants, based in London (note the spelling of "labour"). That's where the definition of overhead cost was pulled from. I don't believe this has anything to do with Americanization.
  27. Punchrock New Member

    No of course not, I am saying that the "as new" was needed, as saleable condition would be marked down, not that the writer is necessarily an islander, mind you.
  28. Punchrock New Member

    I wasnt suggesting it was.
  29. TwmSionCati New Member

    English - Wales
    PaulQ quoted [27/09/11, 20:49] the OED definition of the noun ‘sale’, but not those of the adjectives the OP asks about. They are:
    saleable “Capable of being sold; fit for sale; commanding an easy or ready sale”; and
    sellable “That may be sold, saleable”; to which should be added
    vendible “Capable of being vended or sold; that may be disposed of by sale; saleable, marketable. Freq. with more, most, etc., denoting the readiness with which a thing can be sold.
    (Illustrative quotations from 1382 to 1946 at, .../118489/sellable and​
    .../142220/vendible — lifted, almost certainly without permission, from the OED.)

    PaulQ also said [27/09/11, 13:49] “The suffix -able usually goes after a verb and in punchrock's explanation, sale is a noun. I would avoid this supposed meaning.
    I don’t know the evidence for that “usually”. All Quirk et al say is:-able combines fairly freely with transitive verbs to​
    produce gradable adjectives, ‘of the kind that is subject to being V-ed’” [Comprehensive Grammar, p. 1555].
    However, they add: “Bases may also be nouns, sometimes implying a modalized passive sense (marriageable, saleable),
    sometimes not (peaceable, fashionable, seasonable, etc).
    So punchrock needn’t emulate PaulQ’s fastidious distaste!

  30. nic456 Senior Member


    Most interesting discussion. I sent an email to the OED some time ago but never got a reply. I have been and I am still repulsed when reading saleable, not sellable. I believed it to be a modern deformation, but as it stands, it is not. I would like to add the following observations:
    1 Just because there are 2 words does not mean that they are used in a different sense. Spellings change, so do meanings.
    2 Using sale in the meaning of process of selling at a reduced price would only make sense from the perspective of still being in a reasonable condition. The distinctive element is at a reduced price rather then selling in general. But then you can sell almost anything as long as you find a willing buyer. Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer has a wonderful anecdote about TS painting a fence...
  31. pdaines New Member

    Standard American English

    This subtle difference could come from the meanings of the words "sale" and "sell." To sell something simply means that a transaction has occurred. A "sale," on the other hand, in some contexts refers to a particularly beneficial sale. To make a house saleable, or salable, could mean that you are making the house look nice enough to get a "sale" where you really make money, rather than just good enough to sell if you drop the price low enough.

    Overall I think it is a subtle difference that is unlikely to ever really be at issue.
  32. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I do think the difference is an issue in some contexts. If you are required by a sales agreement to return a product in saleable condition, it doesn't mean that it can look used or worn. A used product can be sold but that's very different from the product being in saleable condition, at least from the legal standpoint in the U.S., as far as I understand. As far as I know, "saleable condition" in that context means that it could be returned to the shelf as perhaps an "open box" item alongside new items but the returned item must be in better condition than a used product.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
  33. Biffo Senior Member

    English - England
    I can understand your distaste. If something is <verb>-able then it is able to be <verb>-ed. As far as I know, there is no verb "to sale", so you have some justification.

    However, if we look at comparative usage in Google nGram we see the following:

    AE, ngram sellable,saleable,salable, 1500-2000 - We can see that 'salable' is the commonest followed by 'saleable' and finally 'sellable'.

    BE, ngram sellable,saleable,salable 1500-2000 This time 'saleable' wins easily. It appears that, in British English, it is not as you suggest, a modernism and, in fact, pre-dates 'sellable'.

    I'm surprised to prove you wrong but the facts are there.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
  34. nic456 Senior Member

    @Biffo Yes, that's why I wrote "I believed" until I read the post #29.
    If I may add, the noun sale has 2 definitions as per OED
    1 [mass noun] the exchange of a commodity for money; the action of selling something:
    2a period during which a shop sells goods at reduced prices:
    This means using saleable with the intent of a subcategory of sellable is likely to be misleading. Anything "saleable" is always sellable, albeit only at a reduced price.

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