ability

noun abil·i·ty \ ə-ˈbi-lə-tē \
Updated on: 11 Dec 2017

Definition of ability

plural abilities
1 a : 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

  1. a young woman with many remarkable musical abilities

  2. a young woman of great musical ability

  3. She has shown some ability with foreign languages.

Recent Examples of ability from the Web

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


-ability

noun suffix
variants: or less commonly -ibility

Definition of -ability

: capacity, fitness, or tendency to act or be acted on in a (specified) way
  • agglutinability

Origin and Etymology of -ability

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



ABILITY Defined for English Language Learners

-ability

noun suffix

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

ability

noun abil·i·ty \ ə-ˈbi-lə-tē \

Definition of ability for Students

plural abilities
1 : power to do something
  • The cleaner has the ability to kill germs.
2 : natural talent or acquired skill
  • great musical ability

Synonym Discussion of ability

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.

-ability

noun suffix -abil·i·ty
variants: also -ibility \ə-ˈbi-lə-tē\

Definition of -ability for Students

plural -abilities also -ibilities
: ability, fitness, or likeliness to act or be acted upon in (such) a way
  • capability
  • visibility


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