“Unalienable” vs. “Inalienable”

Adask’s Law

The following is an email exchange between myself and one who listens to my be radio shows.  The listener was concerned that I regularly “mispronunciate” (as former President Bush would say) the word “unalienable”.  I explained that the “mispronunciation” is done intentionally to absolutely distinguish between the words “unalienable” (which implicates our Father YHWH Elohiym and is non-commercial) and “inalienable” (whose power is comparatively trivial).  

Hi Alfred,

I’ve been enjoying your AIH broadcasts on 3215.0 kHz at 23:00 Eastern. You’ve been very informative…I feel that if I miss a show between Tuesdsay and Friday, I’ve fallen behind! I am particularly intrigued by the “all upper-case name” theory. You probably have heard from others that there’s virtually no place else to go in order to get the information and theoretical discussion you present, but let me add my voice to theirs.

I do have a question. You pronounce “unalienable” as “un-a-LEEN-able”…but the only pronunciation I’m aware of is “uhn-eyl-yuh-nuh-buh l” (www.dictionary.com), as in alien, alienate, etc., with the accent always on the “a”. It could just be that it jars my musician’s ears (I was a professional violinist before becoming a software architect), but is there some specific reason you pronounce it that way? In any event, this is a minor quibble about an otherwise-invaluable discussion. A discussion, I fear, that our current Administration will move to suppress soon…I hope to God I’m wrong. Keep informing us.

Best regards,


Hi Tom,

Thanks for listening; thanks for the compliments.

It’s not an accident that I pronounce “unalienable” the way I do.  I understand that most people pronounce it as you described and I understand that my “mis-pronouncing” the word will probably “jar” their “ear”.  While most of the world seems to pronounce “unalienable” as “un-A-lee-un-a-ble,” I intentionally pronounce the word “un-a-LEEN-a-ble”.

Why?  Because the meanings of the words “inalienable” and “unalienable” are vastly different and I wish to make absolutely clear whenever I use the latter instead of the former.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (8th Edition; A.D. 2004), the definition of “inalienable” is:

“Not transferable or assignable. . . .  Also termed unalienable”.

Black‘s 8th does not even define “unalienable” and would thus  have us believe that the words “inalienable” and “unalienable” are synonymous.

But if we go back to Black‘s 2nd (A.D. 1910) we’ll see that “inalienable” was defined as:

“Not subject to alienation; the characteristic of those things which cannot be bought or sold or transferred from one person to another such as rivers and public highways and certain personal rights; e.g., liberty.”

Black’s 2nd defines “unalienable” as:

“Incapable of being aliened, that is, sold and transferred.”

At first glance the two terms seem pretty much synonymous.  However, while the word “inalienable” is “not subject to alienation,” the word “unalienable” is “incapable of being aliened”.  I believe the distinction between these two terms is this:

“Unalienable” is “incapable” of being aliened by anyone, including the man who holds something “unalienable”.  Thus, it is impossible for any individual to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of an “unalienable Right”.  it is impossible for you to take one of my “unalienable rights”.  It is likewise impossible for me to even voluntarily surrender, sell or transfer one of my “unalienable rights”.  Once I have something “unalienable,” it’s impossible for me to get rid of it.  It would be easier to give up the color of my eyes or my heart than to give up that which is “unalienable”.

That which is “inalienable,” on the other hand, is merely “not subject to alienation”.  Black’s 2nd does not declare that it’s absolutely impossible for that which is “inalienable” to be sold, transferred or assigned.  Instead, I believe that “inalienable” merely means that “inalienable rights” are not subject to “alienation” by others.  That is, no one can compel me to sell, abandon or transfer any of my “inalienable” rights.  I am not “subject” to compelled “alienation” by others.

But that leaves open the question of whether I may am entitled to voluntarily and unilaterally sell, transfer, abandon or otherwise surrender that which is “inalienable”.  Thus, while it is impossible for me to abandon, or for government to take, my “unalienable rights,” it is possible for me to voluntarily waive my “inalienable” rights.  I strongly suspect that our gov-co presumes that our rights are at best “inalienable,” and that since we have not expressly claimed them, we could have and therefore must have waived them.

if we look at Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (A.D. 1856) we’ll see:

“INALIENABLE.  A word denoting the condition of those things the property in which cannot be lawfullytransferred from one person to another.  Public highways and rivers are inalienable.  There are also many rights which are inalienable, as the rights of liberty or of speech.”

“UNALIENABLE.  Incapable of being transferred.  Things which are not in commerce, as, public roads, are in their nature unalienable.  Some things are unalienable in consequence of particular provisions of the law forbidding their sale or transfer; as, pensions granted by the government.  The natural rights of life and libertyare unalienable.”

Clearly, the words are not synonymous.  While “inalienable” rights can’t be “lawfully” transferred “to another,” they might nevertheless be waived by the holder or perhaps “unlawfully” (privately??) “transferred” to someone else.  However, those rights which are “unalienable” are absolutely incapable of being transferred lawfully, unlawfully, administratively, privately or by implication or operation of law.  that which you have, which is “unalienable,” is your wrists in an absolute sense that cannot possibly be discarded, transferred, sold, or otherwise abandoned.

Also, note that the word “unalienable” describes things which are “not in commerce”.  However, it appears that those things which are “inalienable” could be “in commerce”.  as you know, much of the trouble we have with the modern government is based on government’s claim of power to regulate all that is involved in interstate commerce.  In so far as you may be able to prove that any item or right you seek to use or exercise is “unalienable,” that item or write would be beyond the power of our government to regulate under interstate commerce.  You can see the power potential in “unalienable”.

Most importantly, as declared in the “Declaration of Independence,” all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.  Our unalienable rights flow from God and are not subject to man’s meddling.  Bouvier’s agrees by defining “unalienable” as including our “natural” rights (which flow from “nature’s God”).

Admittedly, both “inalienable” and “unalienable” are defined to include the concept of “liberty”.  Thus, there is some confusion, some overlap, in the two definitions. Some things may be both “inalienable and also “unalienable”.  Therefore, my argument about the distinctions between the two terms is not necessarily as pristine as I would like.

Nevertheless, the two terms are significantly different and virtually all of the real power will be found in the word “unalienable” rather than in the word “inalienable”.  Those things which are “unalienable” are from God, outside of commerce, and impossible to “alienate” by external force or by personal consent.  “Inalienable” offers no advantages that I’m able to see as compared to “unalienable”.  “Inalienable” offers some possible disadvantages such as the possibility that you might be allowed to voluntarily waive whatever “inalienable” rights you possess.

I conclude that while there may be some confusion between the two terms, “unalienable” offers great and absolute power while “inalienable” is far weaker, more conditional, and probably subject to at least some “alienation”.

So why take a chance?  Why not make it your business to ensure that every time you have a chance to use one word or the other you always choose to use “unalienable”?  Why not use the exact word (“unalienable”) that was used by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence?

While the words “inalienable” and “unalienable” have significantly different meanings, their “sounds” are almost identical and only a highly-tuned “ear” will note the distinction in sound and then meaning between them.  I believe our modern gov-co fears and detests “unalienable” but doesn’t much mind that we use the word “inalienable”.  The first term is lethal to gov-co powers; the second is not particularly threatening.

I visited the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC about five years ago.  I was amazed to see that the Jefferson Memorial includes an excerpt from the “Declaration of Independence” attributed to Jefferson that referred to our “inalienable Rights”.  But the text of the Declaration of Independence” expressly refers to our “unalienable Rights”.  Thus, the “Declaration of Independence” is misquoted in 12″ high letters that are carved in stone.  I couldn’t be more surprised if the gov-co has misspelled Jefferson’s name.

I cannot believe that the designers and builders of the Jefferson Memorial misspelled “unalienable” or “accidentally” replaced “unalienable” with “inalienable”.  This change was done intentionally and because the word “inalienable” is trivial while the word “unalienable” is powerful to a spiritual degree.

I am discouraged to realize that tens of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) of Americans have visited the Jefferson Memorial without realizing that “inalienable” had been substituted for “unalienable”.  I doubt that I’m the first to recognize that substitution, but I’ve never heard of anyone previously understanding and objecting to that substitution.

The difference between “inalienable” and “unalienable” is similar to the difference between a bean blower and a 50 caliber rifle.  They both fire projectiles, but where the flying beans are virtually harmless, the 50 caliber bullets are absolutely lethal.

Therefore, I intentionally “mispronunciate” (as our former President Bush might say) the word “unalienable” to “jar” each listener’s “ear” and make absolutely clear that they’ve just heard the explosive “BOOM!” of a 50 caliber rifle every time I “pull the trigger” and not a mere bean blower’s “phfffft”.


Dear Alfred,

Thanks for the fantastically detailed reply. I, too, have noted the use and misuse of “unalienable” vs. “inalienable”. I’m going to read your text a few more time to “drink in” the full essence of what you’re saying. I should have known better, having listened to you for many tens of hours, that you not only say what you mean but say it AS you mean! Difference between a “bean blower and .50 caliber rifle”!! Amen!

As I write to you from  within The County of Montgomery located within the boundaries of The State of Pennsylvania (uh-oh…what do I do with “Commonwealth”?) one of the several states of the perpetual Union…I love it. Please make the topic of “Commonwealth” the subject of a talk soon…I really want to hear your take on it.

And, finally, Romans pretty much says it all, doesn’t it. My favorite after The General Epistle of James.

Best regards,



4 thoughts on ““Unalienable” vs. “Inalienable”

  1. “, the “Declaration of Independence” is misquoted in 12″ high letters that are carved in stone. I couldn’t be more surprised if the gov-co has misspelled Jefferson’s name” I KNOW RIGHT? THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS BROTHER. REMINDS ME OF THE JEW TERM “CIVIL LIBERTIES”………..

  2. The people in government are going to do what they want or what their Masters want regardless of what is written on a magic piece of old paper.

  3. “Black‘s 8th does not even define “unalienable” and would thus have us believe that the words “inalienable” and “unalienable” are synonymous.”

    That’s where ‘infinitely malleable’ comes in.

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