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

Surging e-commerce sales have been straining the capacity of distribution networks that were originally set up for bulk replenishment of merchandise to stores or for business-to-business delivery. Jennifer Smith, WSJ, "As Retailers Spread Out Holiday Sales, Congested Parcel Networks Catch a Break," 30 Nov. 2018 For one thing, the R1T has a towing capacity of 11,000 pounds, which is more comparable to the capability of a higher-end F-150. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "The all-electric Rivian R1T is a dream truck for adventurers," 26 Nov. 2018 What the military can and can’t do The military’s role at the border is to boost the capacity of Border Patrol agents to do their job. Zeeshan Aleem, Vox, "The Pentagon reportedly rejected Trump’s request to give troops extra power at the border," 3 Nov. 2018 The board approved a contract with Transportation Economics & Management Systems Inc. for $160,000 at its July 2 meeting to study the capacity of the rail lines, Owen said. Alexandra Kukulka,, "Continuing Amtrak Hiawatha fight, Glenview to pay for $160,000 train traffic analysis," 10 July 2018 However, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told journalists in India on Monday that the state oil company has spare capacity of 2 million barrels of oil a day. NBC News, "Trump claims Saudi Arabia will boost oil production," 30 June 2018 Tesla sometimes shipped 75kWh batteries to customers who had only paid for 60kWh or 70kWh worth of battery capacity. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Tesla remotely extends car batteries to help with Hurricane Michael," 10 Oct. 2018 All of the industrial capacity and minerals were up in the northern half of Korea. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Big data could ‘stop famines from ever happening again,’ says World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim," 24 Sep. 2018 The tour sold out a few hours after it was announced, so the venues were changed to ones with larger capacity wherever possible and new shows were added to the schedule. Billboard Japan, Billboard, "Japanese Rockers the pillows Kick Off U.S. Tour in Lead-up to New Album," 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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Statistics for capacity

Last Updated

9 Dec 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

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to enclose within walls

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