ca·pac·i·ty | \ kə-ˈpa-sə-tē , -ˈpas-tē \
plural capacities

Definition of capacity 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : legal competency (see competence sense 3) 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

6a : capacitance

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

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Examples of capacity in a Sentence


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The lineup of models — all with five-passenger capacity — now includes the original (starting at $23,475 plus $920 freight); the Prius Prime plug-in, with a beginning price of $27,300); and the compact Prius C, starting as low as $20,630. G. Chambers Williams Iii, Houston Chronicle, "COMPACT," 13 July 2018 Too much pumping can compact the layers of soil and gravel and permanently reduce underground water storage capacity. Dale Kasler And Phillip Reese, sacbee, "The Valley floor is sinking, and it’s crippling California’s ability to deliver water," 13 July 2018 Natural gas: With the backing of utilities Eversource and National Grid, some business groups lobbied for legislation that would help the utilities expand the state’s natural gas pipeline capacity. Jon Chesto,, "Mass. lawmakers wrap up work on energy legislation," 13 July 2018 Poulos said, which includes evaluating water, pressure and capacity needs. Amy Lavalley, Post-Tribune, "Michigan distillery's wastewater hurdles, growth on minds as plans in Valparaiso continue," 13 July 2018 Benjamin made time for giving back to the larger community and served in a variety of volunteer capacities including as President of the Lions Club. Hartford Courant,, "Benjamin Goldberg," 12 July 2018 Over the next year, about $38 million will be invested to increase capacity from 11 to 16 soundstages spread over 500,000 square feet. Erik Heinrich,, "Toronto has been a film and TV hub for decades. Now Guillermo del Toro may give the Canadian city an edge," 12 July 2018 All told, Australia boasts a renewable energy potential of 25,000 gigawatts, one of the highest in the world and about four times the planet's installed electricity production capacity. Robert F. Service, Science | AAAS, "Ammonia—a renewable fuel made from sun, air, and water—could power the globe without carbon," 12 July 2018 The 2017 storms caused a total of $265 billion in damage and badly stretched FEMA’s capacity to respond. Frances Robles, New York Times, "FEMA Was Sorely Unprepared for Puerto Rico Hurricane, Report Says," 12 July 2018

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.

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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


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


see capacity entry 1

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Phrases Related to capacity

fill to capacity

Statistics for capacity

Last Updated

16 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for capacity

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

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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 \
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 \
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

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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

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Comments on capacity

What made you want to look up capacity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

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