The photo to the right is of Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Chldren’s Defense Fund, and one of the most respected voices in the arena of children’s rights and education in the United States. You may know of her, and may even have recognized her. But for many Americans her name is familiar and even well known, but she is not necessarily recognizable by photo.
That is to say, she is notable. Marian Wright Edelman is prominent, especially in circles which are concerned with children’s rights, and to say she is highly respected is to voice her credentials in the most minimum of words. There is no one in America who is more highly respected than she. Among other honors, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her selfless work on behalf of America’s children. She is well-known in civil rights circles, as well.
I chose Dr. Edelman as a way of highlighting the word notable, which is often confused with the meaning of noticeable. Bryan Garner points out that the words overlap, but have different meanings.
It is worth noting that a noted or notable person may not be noticeable; that a noticeable person may not be at all notable nor noted; but that noteworthy achievements may lead one to become noted or notable—and perhaps, after some media attention, even noticeable.” (Garner, p. 574)
His play on words is by way of pointing out the connective quality of the words notable, noticeable, noted, and noteworthy. They all have to do with the concept of being noticed in one way or another, but, as he says, some have credentials attached to them, and others are just coincidental. Someone who commits a crime and whose picture is in the news for a few days may be noticeable. But the criminal is hardly notable or noted, words which describe someone who is respected and honored.
The word notable dates to the 14th century and is derived from the Latin word notābilis, which means respected or honored.
Sometimes you will see the word in an article describing prominent people who attend a function of some kind. It might say
…Among the notables attending were Prince William and his wife, the Dutchess of Cambridge.”
It is clear that some of those in attendance were honored and respected people “of note.” I’m sure there might also be people who are noticeable, in that they dress garishly, or are otherwise distinguishable by something they do to gain attention.
It is worth noting the difference in the meanings of the words, as they are easily confused. As Garner has said, they have a connection, but the difference is noteworthy.
Photo Credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty