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

That data could conceivably then be used to improve the ability of Russian weapons to detect and destroy the F-35. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Is Pausing Deliveries of F-35 Equipment to Turkey," 3 Apr. 2019 Taylor HillGetty Images When John Carreyrou’s Wall Street Journal article came out in October 2015, citing whistleblowers who doubted the ability of Theranos’s central product to do any of what the company claimed, everything came crashing down. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Elizabeth Holmes Is a Tragic Figure," 18 Mar. 2019 Your deck represents the followers and the abilities of an Archon, an all-powerful being. Charlie Theel, Ars Technica, "KeyForge: The red-hot card game where every deck is unique—and unchangeable," 15 Dec. 2018 To maximize your ability to keep a plant alive, the company also researched the top three hardiest plants that do well with its Watair system. Ann Lien, House Beautiful, "This Planter Takes Care of Your Plant for Three Weeks Straight," 13 Mar. 2019 Perhaps after a year of fighting it's time to celebrate the small victories—a more diverse nominee pool, the ability of women to join forces like never before to change the landscape of Hollywood. Kerry Pieri, Harper's BAZAAR, "It's a Parade of Pink on the Oscars Red Carpet," 25 Feb. 2019 The extra depth is due to the Nokia 9's time-of-flight camera, which gives the phone the ability to capture 1,200 layers of depth when shooting portraits. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Nokia 9 PureView hands-on: All of the cameras and none of the gimmicks," 24 Feb. 2019 The overarching principle behind the unmanned warships is to use them to overwhelm an enemy at sea, stretching and breaking an adversary’s ability to keep track of all the U.S. Navy can throw at it. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "What We Know About the U.S. Navy's Drone Fleet of the Future," 15 Jan. 2019 In October, the SEC ruled against NYSE and Nasdaq in a long-running dispute over data fees, in a decision that may restrain exchanges’ ability to keep increasing such fees in the future. Alexander Osipovich, WSJ, "Wall Street Firms Plan New Exchange to Challenge NYSE, Nasdaq," 7 Jan. 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

Dictionary Entries near ability

Abilene

-abilia

abiliment

ability

-ability

abilla

abilo

Statistics for ability

Last Updated

12 Apr 2019

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 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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