ca·​pac·​i·​ty | \ kə-ˈpa-sə-tē How to pronounce capacity (audio) , -ˈpa-stē \
plural capacities

Definition of capacity

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : legal competency (see competence sense 1) or fitness capacity to stand trial
2a : the potential or suitability for holding, storing, or accommodating a large seating capacity
b : the maximum amount or number that can be contained or accommodated a jug with a one-gallon capacity the auditorium was filled to capacity — see Metric System Table, Weights and Measures Table
3a : an individual's mental or physical ability : aptitude, skill He has the capacity to handle this job. Her breathing capacity has deteriorated.
b : the faculty or potential for treating, experiencing, or appreciating capacity for love
4 : duty, position, role will be happy to serve in any capacity
5 : the facility or power to produce, perform, or deploy : capability a plan to double the factory's capacity also : maximum output industries running at three-quarter capacity
b : the quantity of electricity that a battery can deliver under specified conditions



Definition of capacity (Entry 2 of 2)

: equaling maximum capacity a capacity crowd

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for capacity

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of capacity in a Sentence

Noun The nightclub has a 1,000-person capacity. a bottle with a capacity of two liters Does he have the capacity to handle this job? The disease causes a deterioration of breathing capacity. He was acting in his capacity as judge. serving in a supervisory capacity
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In Baja California Sur, where Los Cabos is located, authorities are again rushing to add beds to strained hospitals, which reached 75 percent capacity last week before improving to 62 percent on Thursday., 23 July 2021 Residence halls will be at capacity and campus events and activities will be back in full swing, with safety measures in place. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, 23 July 2021 Concerts in the Sculpture Garden, four concerts held every other Thursday between July 29 and Sept. 9, will be capped at 1,700 attendees — which is half the sculpture garden’s capacity. Washington Post, 23 July 2021 Ship capacity will be reduced to allow for more social distancing. Eve Chen, USA TODAY, 23 July 2021 Levin is forming the bipartisan caucus with Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Illinois, who has led efforts to maintain nuclear power capacity in Illinois. San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 July 2021 Built into the 710-foot-tall dam are eight hydroelectric generators, whose total capacity is 1,320 megawatts. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, 22 July 2021 Each trim level has two options for battery capacity. Jim Rossman, Dallas News, 22 July 2021 Whitmer issued an executive order on April 15 that required nursing homes with available capacity to create a dedicated unit to isolate residents with COVID-19 and accept COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, 22 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'capacity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of capacity


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1897, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for capacity

Noun and Adjective

Middle English capacite, from Middle French capacité, from Latin capacitat-, capacitas, from capac-, capax

Keep scrolling for more

Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best packing cubes of 2021.

Learn More About capacity

Time Traveler for capacity

Time Traveler

The first known use of capacity was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near capacity

capacitor motor


capacity coupling

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for capacity

Last Updated

26 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Capacity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Aug. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for capacity



English Language Learners Definition of capacity

: the ability to hold or contain people or things
: the largest amount or number that can be held or contained
: the ability to do something : a mental, emotional, or physical ability


ca·​pac·​i·​ty | \ kə-ˈpa-sə-tē How to pronounce capacity (audio) \
plural capacities

Kids Definition of capacity

1 : ability to contain or deal with something The room has a large seating capacity. Factories are working to capacity.
2 : mental or physical power You have the capacity to do better.
3 : volume sense 3 The tank has a ten-gallon capacity.
4 : role sense 1, status In your capacity as team captain, you can set a good example.


ca·​pac·​i·​ty | \ kə-ˈpas-ət-ē, -ˈpas-tē How to pronounce capacity (audio) \
plural capacities

Medical Definition of capacity

1a : the ability to hold, receive, store, or accommodate
b : a measure of content : the measured ability to contain : volume a beaker with a capacity of one liter — see vital capacity
c(1) : capacitance
(2) : the quantity of electricity that a battery can deliver under specified conditions
2 : legal qualification, competency, power, or fitness
3a : power to grasp and analyze ideas and cope with problems
b : blended power, strength, and ability encourage physical activity to the limit of the child's capacity— Morris Fishbein

Keep scrolling for more


plural capacities

Legal Definition of capacity

1 : a qualification, power, or ability (as to give consent or make a testament) created by operation of law
2 : an individual's ability or aptitude especially : mental ability as it relates to responsibility for the commission of a crime (as murder) — see also diminished capacity — compare competency, incapacity, insanity

More from Merriam-Webster on capacity

Nglish: Translation of capacity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of capacity for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about capacity


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!