dis·​abil·​i·​ty | \ ˌdis-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce disability (audio) \

Definition of disability

1 : a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person's ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions Scientists have tentatively linked the reading disability known as dyslexia to a bevy of brain disturbances.Science News How, with his severe disability, has Hawking been able to out-think and out-intuit his leading colleague-competitors …— Kip S. Thorne Yet one ends up admiring him for his devotion to the disability that could have unmade his career as an actor. It is through his deafness that we hear his story.— Lennard J. Davis also : impaired function or ability Sarcopenia is a loss of muscle mass and strength that normally occurs with aging, and it's a major cause of frailty and disability in the elderly. — Andrew Weil Thrombolytic therapy has been used in patients with acute ischemic stroke to restore cerebral blood flow, reduce ischemia, and limit neurologic disability. — Werner Hacke — see also intellectual disability, learning disability
2a(1) : an impairment (such as a chronic medical condition or injury) that prevents someone from engaging in gainful employment … monthly payment to which a worker is entitled upon retirement or disability under the federal social security system …— Robert I. Mehr
(2) : an impairment (such as spina bifida) that results in serious functional limitations for a minor
b : a program providing financial support to a person affected by disability … those who fit the criteria for dysthymia were more likely to have physical and emotional problems and more likely to be on Medicaid or Social Security disability than those with acute depression.— Melinda Beck also : the financial support provided by such a program … he collects disability on account of his exposure to Agent Orange during his years as an Army MP in Vietnam. — Jason Fagone
3 : a disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage economic disabilities
4 : lack of legal qualification to do something … Defoe … dramatised the gravity of the problem in the morally desperate expedient which Roxana is forced to adopt to overcome the legal disabilities of women.— Ian Watt

Examples of disability in a Sentence

She has learned to keep a positive attitude about her disability. disabilities such as blindness and deafness a program for children with disabilities It's a serious disease that can cause disability or death. After he injured his back he had to quit his job and go on disability.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The more children diagnosed with a disability at a school, the more money a state or federal program would allocate to that school. WSJ, "On the Overmedication of School Children," 14 Mar. 2019 He was also accused of mocking a reporter with a disability. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "Racial slurs and fat-shaming insults keep popping up on receipts. Is Trump worsening the trend?," 29 Oct. 2018 While the article provides empowering examples of meaningful workforce participation, many Fortune 500 environments have yet to embrace persons with disabilities in their workforce, corporate culture and as a large consumer market. WSJ, "Recognizing the Value of Disabled Workers," 4 Feb. 2019 The Americans With Disabilities Act is in effect the Civil Rights Act for people with disabilities in the United States. Rachel Withers, Vox, "George H.W. Bush was a champion for people with disabilities," 2 Dec. 2018 The Wirral Youth Zone, also known as The Hive, is a special facility built for young people with disabilities to participate in activities like lego challenges and rock climbing. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's First Event of 2019 Compares to Last Year," 14 Jan. 2019 Medicare: This is a federal program that provides health coverage to those who are 65 years or older, younger people who have disabilities, and those with specific health issues. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Heads Up: You Can Still Sign Up for Obamacare and Open Enrollment Is Going On Right Now," 14 Nov. 2018 Creative Growth was founded in 1974, and is the first studio in the world to support people with developmental disabilities. Michaela Bechler, Vogue, "Method Soap Bottles Get a Colorful Makeover Thanks to Oakland’s Creative Growth Art Center," 5 Feb. 2019 Along his mail route, Knaack met families who had children with developmental disabilities. Karie Angell Luc, chicagotribune.com, "A reason to cheer: Avenues to Independence celebrates 65 years," 19 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'disability.' 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 disability

1545, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Dictionary Entries near disability





disability clause

disability insurance


Statistics for disability

Last Updated

28 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for disability

The first known use of disability was in 1545

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More Definitions for disability


dis·​abil·​i·​ty | \ ˌdi-sə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce disability (audio) \
plural disabilities

Kids Definition of disability

: a condition (as one present at birth or caused by injury) that damages or limits a person's abilities : the state of being disabled


dis·​abil·​i·​ty | \ ˌdis-ə-ˈbil-ət-ē How to pronounce disability (audio) \
plural disabilities

Medical Definition of disability

1 : the condition of being disabled
2 : limitation in the ability to pursue an occupation because of physical or mental impairment
3 : a physical or mental illness, injury, or condition that incapacitates in any way also : a program providing financial support to one affected by disability went on disability after the injury


plural disabilities

Legal Definition of disability

1 : inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment specifically : inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or to be of long continued or indefinite duration in accordance with the Social Security Act — see also benefit, Americans with Disabilities Act — compare incapacity, occupational disease
2 : lack of legal qualification to do something a minor's disability

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More from Merriam-Webster on disability

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with disability

Spanish Central: Translation of disability

Nglish: Translation of disability for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of disability for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about disability

Comments on disability

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an enemy or opponent

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