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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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 Hanging in the balance is President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to pass legislation and to win Senate confirmation of administration officials and judges. Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times, "‘It is a cliffhanger’: Republicans worry Trump’s moves could depress turnout in Georgia Senate runoffs," 4 Jan. 2021 He is thwarted by Wonder Woman’s ability to speak heartfully to the world. Washington Post, "7 movies that do the same things ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ does, but better," 29 Dec. 2020 Collins has already teased an ability to sow chaos in both facets of the game with 18 tackles (11 solo), two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two pass breakups. Nick Moyle, ExpressNews.com, "Texas ready to unleash freshman DL Alfred Collins in Alamo Bowl," 27 Dec. 2020 The White House won a tax break Mr. Trump had been seeking all year: the ability for businesses to deduct restaurant meals during 2021 and 2022. Andrew Duehren, WSJ, "Congress Passes Covid-19 Relief, Spending Package With Overwhelming Support," 22 Dec. 2020 In the Sun story, Mr. Ecker said that Mr. Henson’s ability to work with people and solve problems that led him to appoint to the human rights job. Jacques Kelly, baltimoresun.com, "James E. Henson Sr., retired Howard County Human Rights Office chief, dies," 22 Dec. 2020 Drosten notes that the new mutant also carries a deletion in another viral gene, ORF8, that previous studies suggest might reduce the virus’s ability to spread. Kai Kupferschmidt, Science | AAAS, "Mutant coronavirus in the United Kingdom sets off alarms but its importance remains unclear," 20 Dec. 2020 An exercise bike’s ability to provide multiple resistance levels will be key in its success at satisfactorily mimicking the sensation and benefits of a real-world distance ride. Popsci Commerce Team, Popular Science, "Best exercise bike: Get your miles in without leaving the house," 19 Dec. 2020 Republicans do not dismiss the president’s ability to foment rebellions. David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, "GOP governors ready for Trump attacks in 2022," 18 Dec. 2020

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

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ability.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ability. Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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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

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.

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Comments on ability

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