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

Every step is deliberate and, for people whose entire careers are built on the back of authenticity, their inability to be genuinely apologetic shouldn’t be celebrated. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "Dr Disrespect and other creators keep hiding their apologies," 3 July 2019 The Orioles are getting their fair share of ribbing this year for their inability to play baseball competitively at the major league level. Phil Davis,, "Satirical Onion sendup sympathizes with prospect who's 'sent down' to the Orioles," 27 June 2019 The problem is our inability — and maybe our vindictive unwillingness — to see to it that our procedures are administered and implemented decently and humanely — and effectively, which is of consequence for the other two criteria. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "Immigration Policy: Bordering on Madness," 25 June 2019 The Padres were hitting Reyes second in the lineup earlier in the season, partly due to his inability to be at his best in RBI situations. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Padres notes: Offense not so offensive lately," 21 June 2019 Workers cited Matias’ continued contact with Penar and his inability, despite interventions, to bond with his son. Melissa Sanchez, ProPublica, "For generations, Illinois’ child welfare agency has failed to adequately serve Spanish-speaking families with children in its care.," 20 June 2019 Rose-Lynn’s dreams clash with the difficulty of her family life, the lingering effects of her criminal past, and her inability to stick with anything long enough to make a career out of it. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Wild Rose Is the Best Kind of Musical Melodrama," 19 June 2019 That won’t sit well among China’s leaders, who are obsessively on guard against anything that the Chinese public might see as a sign of their government’s weakness or its inability to command America’s respect. Gwynn Guilford, Quartz, "The trade war is already pushing businesses out of China—and it could be permanent," 14 June 2019 When Leonardo was older and began apprenticing in the workshop of painter Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence, his inability to execute became more apparent. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "New Study Suggests Leonardo da Vinci Had A.D.H.D.," 5 June 2019

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

7 Jul 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

Comments on inability

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