dis·abil·i·ty | \ˌdis-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē \

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

Also, unattended children or people who have mental or physical disabilities should always seek medical help. Jessica Lee, The Seattle Times, "Beware of bats: King County health officials urge caution after rabies case confirmed at UW," 23 May 2018 Medicare covers people of all ages who have disabilities and get benefits through Social Security. Rory Linnane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Death of psychiatric patient on state's watch under review by district attorney," 15 May 2018 People with mental health issues—who may also have disabilities or invisible illnesses, or have larger bodies—may find exercising in a public setting all the more off-putting. Beth Mccoll, SELF, "I Have Depression and Anxiety. Please Stop Telling Me to ‘Go for a Run’," 16 Apr. 2018 The vast majority of SNAP participants (71 percent) are in families with children, while 38 percent are in families with members who are elderly or have disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Leada Gore, AL.com, "Trump considers allowing states to drug test food stamp recipients," 12 Apr. 2018 But both Charlie and Mary are on disability, and subsequent medical bills haven’t made repairs possible. Michael Katz, idahostatesman, "He has 2 Purple Hearts but couldn't afford home repairs. Then help arrived - for free.," 10 June 2018 Mucha, who had racked up a list of misconduct complaints before retiring on duty disability for stress, wrote the report. Gina Barton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee police sergeant in Sterling Brown arrest has a history of using force with Taser," 5 June 2018 The deputies knocked, and Hill, 30, on disability leave from a Coca-Cola warehouse, pulled open the garage door. Jon Schuppe /, NBC News, "'My heart just dropped.' $4 verdict shocks family of man killed by police," 31 May 2018 With recent retirements and a few firefighters out on permanent disability, Schmidt said the department has hired 12 new firefighters since January 2017. Mike Danahey, Elgin Courier-News, "With eye on diversity, Elgin may relax requirements for firefighter applicants," 24 May 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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Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

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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 \
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 \
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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