ability

noun
abil·​i·​ty | \ə-ˈbi-lə-tē \
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

The hope is that the posters, which feature Scottsdale residents of different genders, abilities and races in front of the city's iconic LOVE sculpture, will be placed in storefront windows and change perceptions about the city. Zahra Ahmad, azcentral, "'Scottsdale for All' hopes to spread inclusiveness," 13 July 2018 The ability to be in control of their own fertility and reproduction gave women a profound new autonomy over their own bodies, their health, and their sexuality. Carolyn Todd, Allure, "The History and Evolution of Birth Control in America," 12 July 2018 One of the biggest differences between the college and pro games is NFL teams’ ability to use a headset in one player’s helmet to radio in play calls. Andy Staples, SI.com, "Like It or Not, College Football Is Influencing the NFL," 12 July 2018 On Wednesday, the park district’s Hunt Club Aquatic Center hosted the event, which saw 34 groups of lifeguards from park districts across the state coursing through seven challenges to display their cat-like reflexes and lifesaving abilities. Yadira Sanchez Olson, Lake County News-Sun, "Annual lifeguard competition in Gurnee tests of strength, speed and rescue skills," 12 July 2018 With only 49 votes in the Senate, Democrats have little ability to block the nominee from moving forward. NBC News, "Progressive group launches ad campaign urging Democrats to oppose Kavanaugh," 13 July 2018 The Vietnamese Communist party’s ability to retain power at the same time as freeing markets must appeal to Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, who has vowed to improve his country’s economy. The Economist, "Is North Korea the next Vietnam? Don’t count on it," 12 July 2018 People asking for his abilities, for connections, for advice, for help finding a lost pet, for proof that their loved one was okay, was still there, somewhere, thinking about them, too. Alessandra Codinha, Vogue, "Seatbelt Psychic Puts A Celebrity Medium in the Driver's Seat," 11 July 2018 Using his Spanish-speaking abilities, Reyes has served as an ambassador to the Latino community, explaining how the department deals with immigration issues, Manley said. Steve Miletich, The Seattle Times, "‘He’s just a doer’: Meet Seattle police-chief candidate Ely Reyes," 9 July 2018

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

Dictionary Entries near ability

Abilene

-abilia

abiliment

ability

-ability

abilla

abilo

Statistics for ability

Last Updated

25 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ability

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

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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 \
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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