Definition of ability
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
Examples of ability in a Sentence
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 of ability from the Web
The party establishment learned last year that its ability to point Republican voters toward acceptable candidates and policy positions was severely lacking.
DENVER – Cincinnati Reds right-hander Scott Feldman has never been a hard-thrower, and a fastball that just touched 90 mph certainly hasn’t affected his ability to post solid numbers out of the rotation in 2017.
For some three years, their ability to control these two urban centers, particularly Mosul, served as warped validation of their ambitions to build a modern-day caliphate.
As part of the Dutch study, students were given two drawing assignments and were assessed on their ability to develop and combine ideas, experiment, and attempt spacial representation.
The crimes based on three premises: desire, opportunity and ability, Simpson said.
Wirth thanks last winter's epic snowfall for his ability to keep the chairs lifting into July.
Mason praised Glazier for having the insight, vision and ability to follow through with this fund.
Pelosi has no ability to project a coherent message; Schumer seems entirely reactive; and the base has fixed its sights on a Russian-collusion fantasy that may eventually be revealed as a vegan nothing-burger.
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.
Origin and Etymology of ability
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
First Known Use: 14th centurySee Words from the same year
Definition of -ability
: capacity, fitness, or tendency to act or be acted on in a (specified) way agglutinability
ABILITY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of -ability for English Language Learners
: ability, fitness, or likeliness to act or be acted on in (such) a way
ABILITY Defined for Kids
Definition of ability for Students
1 : power to do something The cleaner has the ability to kill germs.
2 : natural talent or acquired skill great musical ability
Definition of -ability for Students
: ability, fitness, or likeliness to act or be acted upon in (such) a way capability visibility
Learn More about ability
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up ability? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).