ability

noun
abil·​i·​ty | \ ə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce ability (audio) \
plural abilities

Definition of ability

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the quality or state of being able the ability of the soil to hold water especially : physical, mental, or legal power to do something a writer's ability to engage the reader's interest did the work to the best of her ability [=as well as she could]
b : competence in doing something : skill artistic abilities
2 : natural aptitude or acquired proficiency students with different abilities

-ability

noun suffix
variants: or less commonly -ibility

Definition of -ability (Entry 2 of 2)

: capacity, fitness, or tendency to act or be acted on in a (specified) way agglutinability

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Choose the Right Synonym for ability

Noun

ability and talent mean physical or mental power to do or accomplish something. ability may be used of an inborn power to do something especially well. Many athletes have the ability to run fast. talent is used for an unusual ability to create things. You should develop your talent for writing short stories.

Examples of ability in a Sentence

Noun a young woman with many remarkable musical abilities a young woman of great musical ability She has shown some ability with foreign languages.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When breaking news happens, the show will have the ability to go past three hours. Lillian Rizzo, WSJ, "WGN America Enters Cable-TV News Arena, Promising No Opinions," 15 Jan. 2020 Donald Trump did not have the ability to take over the party by himself. NBC News, "Never Trumper group expands to take aim at vulnerable allies of the president," 14 Jan. 2020 While a full-time job comes with certain outlined tasks, there are always new projects and experiences to jump on that can enhance your abilities and career. Sarah Fielding, Fortune, "How Freelancing Can Help Your Career," 13 Jan. 2020 Playing along side her sister, senior Alexa, Maffeo’s defensive ability and hockey awareness have paved the way for the Bulldogs’ torrid start. Dan Shulman, BostonGlobe.com, "Canton’s Olivia Maffeo overpowers Waltham in girls’ hockey," 11 Jan. 2020 This tool could allow an individual the ability to trial and error their way through a level, and then release a perfect run to anyone on the Internet that also wishes to 'beat' a level. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Inside TASBot’s semi-secret, probably legal effort to control the Nintendo Switch," 11 Jan. 2020 This hand type signifies intellectually curious individuals with innate analytical abilities and communication skills. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "A Beginner's Guide to Reading Palms," 3 Jan. 2020 Under that system, users have the ability to cut off the data stream that fuels the targeted ad economy at the source. Los Angeles Times, "It’s 2020 and you have new privacy rights online. But you might have to show ID," 1 Jan. 2020 But Zimba points to Zambia’s history with nephrology: As recently as 2004, the nation didn’t have the ability to perform dialysis for diabetes patients with failing kidneys, and patients who could afford it were sent to India. Oliver Staley, Quartz Africa, "Zambia has 17 million people, a stroke epidemic, and no neurologists," 30 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ability.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ability

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for ability

Noun

Middle English ablete, abilite, habilite "suitability, proficiency, ability," borrowed from Anglo-French abilité, borrowed from Latin habilitāt-, habilitās "aptitude," from habilis "easy to handle, adaptable, fit" + -tāt-, -tās -ty — more at able

Noun suffix

Middle English -ablete, -abilite, -iblete, -ibilite, borrowed from Anglo-French -ableté, -abilité, -ibleté, -ibilité, borrowed from Latin -abilitās, -ibilitās, from -abilis, -ibilis -able + -tās -ty

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Learn More about ability

Time Traveler for ability

Time Traveler

The first known use of ability was in the 14th century

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Statistics for ability

Last Updated

18 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ability.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ability. Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for ability

-ability

noun suffix

English Language Learners Definition of -ability

: ability, fitness, or likeliness to act or be acted on in (such) a way

ability

noun
abil·​i·​ty | \ ə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce ability (audio) \
plural abilities

Kids Definition of ability

1 : power to do something The cleaner has the ability to kill germs.
2 : natural talent or acquired skill great musical ability

-ability

noun suffix
-abil·​i·​ty
variants: also -ibility \ ə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \
plural -abilities also -ibilities

Kids Definition of -ability

: ability, fitness, or likeliness to act or be acted upon in (such) a way capability visibility

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Comments on ability

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