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 ambassador has expressed frustrations in private over his inability to make more progress in trade talks despite the relationship with Mr. Xi, according to people familiar with him. Eva Dou, WSJ, "U.S. Envoy to China Feels the Heat From Trade Fight," 19 July 2018 Tension over machines’ inability to perfectly reproduce a human personality? Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle, "Projections the highlight of ‘Solo Date’ at S.F. International Arts Fest," 1 June 2018 But in Sunday’s 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Gausman took a step back, and his inability to put hitters away with two strikes was his downfall in his shortest nonejection outing in 13 months. Eduardo A. Encina,, "Kevin Gausman's two-strike struggles lead to his shortest outing of season," 27 May 2018 Although, with only one goal and one assist to his name, his playing time has often been heavily criticised over his seeming inability to make a huge impact in matches., "Tottenham Fans React on Twitter to Reports of Potential Midfielder Departure," 22 May 2018 In early November, the two companies ended on-again off-again merger talks over their inability to arrive at mutually agreeable terms. Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY, "T-Mobile-Sprint reportedly renew merger talks: What it means to them and you," 10 Apr. 2018 The company has faced repeated scandals over its inability to rid itself of inappropriate and disturbing content, including some videos aimed at children. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "A Window Into How YouTube Trains AI To Moderate Videos," 22 Mar. 2018 Bernadette has a seemingly endless supply of disposable income, which is matched by her inability to get anything done. Mickey Rapkin, Town & Country, "How Does a Virtual Personal Assistant Work, Anyway?," 28 Feb. 2019 Adding to the confusion over the weekend was Mr. Esposito’s inability to get in touch with the mayor, people familiar with the matter said. Katie Honan, WSJ, "New York City Emergency Chief Is on His Way Out Over Storm Response," 3 Dec. 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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Last Updated

17 Mar 2019

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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

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