Most things in life come with a price tag. But then several other things are priceless or cannot be evaluated monetarily. This difference is the line distinguishing “valuable” and “invaluable”.
The term “valuable” denotes anything worth a significant amount of money. An “invaluable” thing, on the other hand, is priceless or cannot be quantified. Individuals, health, skills, experiences, moments, etc., are invaluable. A physical item with emotional value can also be deemed “invaluable”.
Unlike most terms that begin with the prefix “in-”, “invaluable” is not the antonym of “valuable”. If you thought so, keep reading to learn why that is not the case and a host of other things about the two adjectives.
“Valuable” – Definition
The term “valuable” can mean “worth chunks of money”, “limited in quantity; important”, “very helpful or useful”, etc. The term “valuable” is derived from “value”, which means “worth”. When employed as a verb, “value” means “to appraise”.
Primarily an adjective, the term refers to anything that can be “appraised or valued”. In regular usage, however, the word often implies “precious” or “costly”. Add the letter “s” to the word and the adjective turns into a noun. “Valuables” denotes “expensive belongings”.
Anything can be considered “valuable” – be it people, artifacts, jewelry, gadgets, a piece of advice, etc. However, whether that holds value or not or is “valuable” in its most real sense is based on individual perception.
That said, certain things are objectively “valuable” and are not subject to interpretations. For example, luxury watches, precious jewels, properties, etc., are valuable or have a definite price tag.
“Invaluable” – Definition
Like “valuable”, “invaluable” is an adjective also but is an “intensified” variant of “valuable” if it could be put that way. The term denotes anything so important or “valuable” that a monetary value cannot be placed on it or its worth cannot be quantified. People, for instance, are considered “invaluable” if they cannot be replaced. Parents are invaluable.
“Invaluable” things usually do not get or cannot be appraised monetarily. If a certain thing is considered “invaluable”, it’s beyond “value”. Not to mention, “invaluable” can be viewed as an approximate synonym of “innumerable”. Other synonyms could be “priceless”, “indispensable”, “irreplaceable”, etc.
Generally, all things considered as “valuable” can also be held as “invaluable”. However, as mentioned above, an “invaluable” thing is a notch higher than “valuable”. And to be held that high, it needs to be special in a certain way.
In other words, the particular thing needs to hold a specific value – which could be sentimental, emotional, etc. For example, a Rolex watch bought at retail price is a “valuable” item. However, if that same watch was passed down to a son by his dad, the watch becomes an “invaluable” possession to the son.
Any given thing is considered “invaluable” if it cannot be bought or sold for money. The watch from the example above, however, can be sold for cash. But because it’s “invaluable” to the person holding it, he may be unwilling to sell the timepiece.
Why the Confusion Between “Valuable” and “Invaluable”?
“Invaluable” quite clearly is not the opposite of “valuable”, and it’s, therefore, imperative to remember the meaning of the adjective, to not confuse it for the antonym of “valuable”. In a way, “invaluable” could be viewed as the comparative version of “valuable” or the intensified variant of “valuable”.
The Spelling Conundrum
The terms “valuable” and “invaluable” get often mistaken for antonyms. That’s not just because of their confounding meanings but also due to their spellings. In English, the prefix “in-” is invariably employed as a negation. Negation refers to a term such as “no”, “never”, “not”, etc., that helps express a given word or sentence’s opposite meaning.
The terms “indefensible” and “inattentive” are antonyms of “defensible” and “attentive”, respectively. Similar is the case with “dependent” and “independent”, “curable” and “incurable”, “formal” and “informal”, “articulate” and “inarticulate”, “valid” and “invalid”, “sane” and “insane”, etc.
Unlike in the aforementioned set of words, the prefix “in-” is used as an intensifier in “invaluable” and not as a negation. Its usage is similar to how “in-” is employed in the terms “infringe” and “inflame”.
To understand it even better, “valuable” and “invaluable” can be likened to “flammable” and “inflammable”. For those who do not know, “flammable” refers to “a thing that can be set on fire”. “Inflammable”, on the other hand, denotes “a thing or item that can easily catch fire”.
As mentioned above, “invaluable” and “innumerable” can be viewed as synonyms, with the former meaning “too great to count” or “uncountable”. As both the terms start with “in-”, remembering “invaluable” stands for something beyond value becomes much easier.
Another point to note when trying to remember the meanings of the two words or not confusing them is that the term “valuable” is primarily used in correlation with “belongings” or “objects”. “Invaluable” is a lot more common adjective used in relation with “skills”, “characteristics”, etc. In short, a gold coin is “valuable”. A good friend, however, is “invaluable”.
Using the Term “Valuable” in Texts
As mentioned above, the term “valuable” is primarily used as an adjective. Though “valuables” is a noun, “valuable” can never be used in texts as a noun or any other form of a word. The following are a few sentences using the word as an adjective:
- The collection consisted of hundreds of valuable sports memorabilia items, particularly signed basketball jerseys.
- The acquisition turned the company into the most valuable consulting firm in the world.
- She sold all of her valuable belongings.
The following sentences also incorporate “valuable” as an adjective, but the term is not placed right before a noun:
- A clear conscience is any day more valuable to me than money.
- A family doctor can be deemed valuable only if they genuinely understand your ills and your requirements.
Here is a sentence with the noun “valuables”:
- She locked her passport, camera, and other valuables safely in the hotel.
The term “valuable” can also be used to describe things that are usually considered “invaluable”. For instance, friendships can be both “invaluable” and “valuable”. Similarly, a piece of advice could also be either “invaluable” or “valuable”. It all depends on how significant a given thing is to you.
On a side note, “valuable” is used more in academic texts than “invaluable”. In fact, in academic writings, “valuable” assumes a symbolic meaning that’s synonymous with “important”. In specific other scenarios, it denotes a thing of “high monetary value”.
Using the Term “Invaluable” in Texts
As mentioned multiple times above, “invaluable” is linked with non-tangible things holding great, irreplaceable value. However, there are also instances when the adjective can be used in relation with tangible items. Even money could be considered “invaluable” based on the context in which it comes into play or the purpose it serves. For example:
- Those funds were invaluable as they provided the cash-strapped farmers some much-needed strength to continue fighting.
Therefore, it’s not correct to assume that physical goods cannot be “invaluable”. If you’re still not sure, refer to the Rolex watch example above.
Example Sentences with the Word “Valuable”
The following are sentences using the term “valuable”:
- Google is among the most valuable brands in the world.
- The gifts presented to her by the monarchs and princes were valuable, to say the least.
- The most valuable jewelry pieces were kept in the safe.
- She is a valuable client.
- A Patek Philippe watch is any day more valuable than any Timex.
- Steel and iron are valuable industrial metals.
- They were running short of their valuable resources.
- What is so valuable about it?
- She found something valuable.
- I understand her time is valuable, but can I have just 10 minutes with her?
- He is becoming more and more valuable to the firm with every passing quarter.
- Diamonds are arguably the most valuable stones around.
- The imperialists plundered several valuable artworks.
Example Sentences with the Term “Invaluable”
Here are sentences incorporate the word “invaluable” correctly:
- Her inputs were invaluable to the team.
- This experience gained will prove invaluable in the future.
- Her expert knowledge in the domain made her an invaluable resource.
- A top-of-the-line computer would be invaluable for the project.
- The technology shall prove invaluable for people with poor sight.
- The Internet is a massive repository of invaluable information sources.
- The computer is her most invaluable possession.
- Microscopy is invaluable to studying cell structure.
- The book makes for an inspiring and invaluable reading experience.
- Having been in the field of designing gardens for more than three decades, she has put together an invaluable list of suppliers and artisans.
- Her travel escapades provided her some invaluable insight.
- Intuition is an invaluable trait.
- The platform is invaluable for her.
The terms “valuable” and “invaluable” may seem like antonyms to a novice. Those who know better use the two interchangeably. But the ones who truly understand the meanings of the two terms realize the two adjectives cannot be employed in sentences synonymously.
Those who mistake the two for opposite terms cannot be outright criticized as the two words’ respective meanings do connote the same. In other words, “being able to appraise” and “not being able to appraise” sound or read like two opposite things.
However, if you look at the contexts or sentences in which these two words get used, “invaluable” sits a notch above “valuable” in terms of “value” or denotes “highly esteemed” or “very important”. Not to mention, the opposite of “valuable” is “valueless”, “unworthy”, etc.