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 Heck, the inability to get the murder rate under control should have been the last straw. Joseph Gerth, The Courier-Journal, "Gerth: When is Louisville's mayor going to realize it's time for his police chief to go?," 14 May 2020 The inability to shock is, frankly, the main challenge the show now faces. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Review: Killing Eve returns with a solid S3 premiere and an unexpected loss," 13 Apr. 2020 In normal times, our inability to empathize with our political opponents would be a mere cultural weakness, a serious but not incredibly dangerous problem; in a pandemic, such thinking and mistrust can be life threatening. Pradheep J. Shanker, National Review, "Sympathy and Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus," 8 Apr. 2020 For many, even a phone call isn’t straightforward, and the inability to visit in person is a terrifying blow. Cassie Werber, Quartz, "Caring for people with dementia is even more complicated in the time of coronavirus," 27 Mar. 2020 Boutique owners For owners of brick and mortar stores, an inability to open their doors for a prolonged period of time can be devastating. Christina Capatides, CBS News, "These workers are going without pay during the coronavirus crisis. Here's how to help.," 18 Mar. 2020 The inability to independently adjust the car's adaptive dampers via the selectable drive modes was another noted pain point. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, "Our Ford Mustang Bullitt Remains a Lovable Steed Through an Unlovable Season," 16 Mar. 2020 But the inability to set foot in a museum for the foreseeable future need not be synonymous with the absence of art from people’s lives. Anna Purna Kambhampaty, Time, "So You Can't Go to the Museum. But You Can Bring the Museum to You," 16 Mar. 2020 In many ways, this inability to foresee the future accurately is something that evens the investment playing field. Russ Wiles, azcentral, "Common-sense investing insights we forget during stock-market panics," 15 Mar. 2020

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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Time Traveler for inability

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for inability

Last Updated

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inability.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for inability


How to pronounce inability (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inability

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inability

Spanish Central: Translation of inability

Nglish: Translation of inability for Spanish Speakers

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