Palpable is an adjective that has four different definitions, which mainly focus on the idea of being able to touch or making something into a solid object. The first two definitions deal with the sensation of touch, whereas the last two concern themselves with making elusive thoughts or descriptions substantial. The most common definition for palpable would be: something that may be touched, felt, or handled. It is something that can be perceptible by the sense of touch, hence being tangible.
Palpable can then also be used to describe the exact opposite. It implies that something is plainly observable and noticeable without the usage of the sense of touch. Then there are the definitions concerning solidification. One interpretation is that there is an extreme or intense amount of something intangible that it almost seems tangible. Examples of this would be overpowering darkness, thick mist, or severe heat. Darkness, mist, and heat cannot be touched but because of their intensity it feels as if it were possible to do so. The last interpretation is to be able to easily perceive a fact, idea, quality, or characteristic with the mind. This implies that the mind can understand it clearly, that it is obvious and manifest.
The term palpable has transformed in time in its spelling, but it has not lost its original meaning. The English palpable came from the same word in Middle French during the 15th century and may have been used as early as 1365. In French palpable implies that something may be touched. This definition was taken from the post-classical Latin word palpabilis. The Latin word, however, also meant that something is easily perceptible and sufficiently obvious. This part of the definition is most probably where the modern English term got its second meaning: making the intangible tangible. Palpabilis originated from the classical Latin word palpare, meaning to touch gently or to stroke. The base of palpare is palpus, which is the soft palm of the hand. Palpus, it has been suggested, shares the same Indo-European base root pal as the ancient Greek term for feel, touch, and stroke softly.
The word feel also shares the same Indo-European base root with palpable. Pal, in the sense of feel, developed into the Proto-Germanic foljanv and then into felan in Old English. However, it still means to touch and perceive. This shows the close relationship between the words palpable and feel even though they have very different spelling. The definition of feel is identical to parts of that of palpable, which originates from their common origin.
"Feel." In Online Etymology Dictionary. N.p.: n.p., 2001-2012. Accessed November 21, 2012.
"Palpable." In Online Etymology Dictionary. N.p.: n.p., 2001-2012. Accessed November 21, 2012.
"palpable, adj. and adv.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/136516?redirectedFrom=palpable. Accessed November 21, 2012.