in·​abil·​i·​ty | \ ˌi-nə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce inability (audio) \

Definition of inability

: lack of sufficient power, resources, or capacity his inability to do math

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Examples of inability in a Sentence

She has shown an inability to concentrate. the inability of the government to cope with the problem

Recent Examples on the Web

The memory of the mistake on the field goal try in the fourth quarter will linger, but the Spartans’ inability to get a sustained attack on offense was what ultimately did in Dantonio’s team. Michael Wagaman, The Seattle Times, "Herbert sparks Oregon past Michigan State 7-6 in Redbox Bowl," 31 Dec. 2018 He's danced around his inability to get Congress to approve and fund the border wall in full, although there is money for it in a recent spending bill. Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, "Donald Trump has changed his immigration rhetoric in one very important way," 4 Apr. 2018 But Intel’s inability to shift to 10nm for several generations put the tick-tock process out of whack, at least for now. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Leaked Intel roadmaps call Intel's 10nm transition into question yet again," 26 Apr. 2019 The government’s inability to cope with rising needs has fueled criticism and anger even among its support base. Sarah El Deeb, The Seattle Times, "Syria’s Assad: Last man standing amid new Arab uprisings," 13 Apr. 2019 And if this were the case, my body’s inability to fend for itself would not have been the result of poor medical treatment. Lorena Avilés Trujillo, Glamour, "I Have a Brain Aneurysm—I Call Her Annie," 1 Apr. 2019 Tears that signal the inability to handle what the world is throwing your way. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "Jokes About Justin Bieber Crying Show Harmful Attitudes About Masculinity," 9 Nov. 2018 No witnesses, no specifics, no corroboration, or in fact even a contradiction, and the inability to corroborate. Fox News, "Reps. Meadows, Jordan call on Rosenstein to testify," 27 Sep. 2018 Still, the inability to file a lawsuit nags at Ken Wilson. Mike Hendricks, kansascity, "Firefighters protect us. Who protects them?," 13 July 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for inability

Middle English inhabilite disqualification, from Medieval Latin inhabilitas, from Latin in- + habilitas ability

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Statistics for inability

Last Updated

26 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inability

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

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More Definitions for inability



English Language Learners Definition of inability

: the condition of not being able to do something : lack of ability


in·​abil·​i·​ty | \ ˌi-nə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce inability (audio) \

Kids Definition of inability

: the condition of being unable to do something : lack of ability He laughed at my inability to sing.

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More from Merriam-Webster on inability

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inability

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inability

Spanish Central: Translation of inability

Nglish: Translation of inability for Spanish Speakers

Comments on inability

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


a strong desire or propensity

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