in·​abil·​i·​ty ˌi-nə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce inability (audio)
: lack of sufficient power, resources, or capacity
his inability to do math

Example Sentences

She has shown an inability to concentrate. the inability of the government to cope with the problem
Recent Examples on the Web This includes fines addressing Instagram's handling of children's data and its inability to stop hackers from stealing user data. Christopher Hutton, Washington Examiner, 17 May 2023 But the most critical detriment of a siloed streaming platform is its inability to reach new, casual viewers. Julia Poe, Chicago Tribune, 13 May 2023 The airline, on the other hand, had blamed the non-availability of Pratt & Whitney engines for its inability to meet financial obligations. Niharika Sharma, Quartz, 3 May 2023 The fighting also puts at risk the cold chain in Sudan, including over $40 million worth of vaccines and insulin, due to the breaks in the power supply and the inability to restock generators with fuel, Russell said. Forbes, 3 May 2023 Their inability to quickly come to a consensus on their leader indicated to Democrats that an equally treacherous and unpredictable fight could unfold ahead of the debt ceiling debate, according to people familiar with the negotiations. John Wagner And Marianna Sotomayor, Anchorage Daily News, 3 May 2023 Following Trump’s diagnosis with covid-19 and the candidates inability to agree on a virtual debate, the second debate was canceled. Josh Dawsey, Washington Post, 2 May 2023 Later Symptoms of Aphasia Although PPA typically begins with a person’s inability to speak properly, these symptoms gradually become much worse as the left temporal lobe (the part of the brain responsible for language recall) degrades. Matt Benoit, Discover Magazine, 2 May 2023 Symptoms of opiate overdose in dogs include drowsiness, difficulty standing, failure to respond to commands, a blank stare, weakness, unconsciousness and an inability to breathe, according to a handout from the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 22 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'inability.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near inability

Cite this Entry

“Inability.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​abil·​i·​ty ˌin-ə-ˈbil-ət-ē How to pronounce inability (audio)
: lack of ability, power, or means
his inability to carry a tune

More from Merriam-Webster on inability

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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