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abil·​i·​ty ə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce ability (audio)
plural abilities
: 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]
: competence in doing something : skill
artistic abilities
: natural aptitude or acquired proficiency
students with different abilities


2 of 2

noun suffix

variants or less commonly -ibility
: capacity, fitness, or tendency to act or be acted on in a (specified) way

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
He was particularly impressed by the Emmy winner’s ability to distance himself from his iconic portrayal of Sheldon Cooper. Brendan Le, Peoplemag, 16 May 2024 Vehicle speed — When a vehicle’s speed increases, the tire-traction grip and ability to control the vehicle decreases. Star-Telegram Bot, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 16 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for ability 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ability.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


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

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

Dictionary Entries Near ability

Cite this Entry

“Ability.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ability. Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
abil·​i·​ty ə-ˈbil-ət-ē How to pronounce ability (audio)
plural abilities
: the quality or state of being able : power to do something
: competence in doing : skill
: natural or learned skill


2 of 2 noun suffix
variants also -ibility
plural -ties
: ability, fitness, or likeliness to act or be acted on in (such) a way

Noun suffix

derived from Latin -abilitas, -ibilitas "-ability"

More from Merriam-Webster on ability

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