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

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 deficiencies point not only to the ineffectiveness of traditional vulnerability detection and management programs but the inability of teams to actually mitigate risk facing their organizations. Yaniv Bar-yadan, Forbes, 15 Nov. 2021 Offshore wind on the Eastern seaboard has been repeatedly stymied by the inability of government agencies and developers to balance its impact with other uses of the ocean. Judith Lewis Mernit, The Atlantic, 4 Nov. 2021 Rich Barton, Zillow's chief executive officer, cited the inability of the company's technology to accurately forecast real estate prices as the reason for shuttering the house flipping unit. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, 3 Nov. 2021 Chief Justice John Roberts raised concerns about the inability of citizens to preemptively defend their constitutional rights because the Texas law doesn't have a clear enforcer until an individual claim is made. Devin Dwyer, ABC News, 1 Nov. 2021 Before Tuesday, Beijing was also quiet about any threats posed by an inability of Evergrande and other developers to pay offshore debts. Laura He, CNN, 27 Oct. 2021 Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and the inability of American society to come together even in the face of a deadly virus largely ended that delusion: Our divided politics reflects a divided public. Los Angeles Times, 15 Oct. 2021 Willis’ scrambling ability and the inability of UAB to wrap up tackles resulted in the Flames forcing a tie going into the break. Evan Dudley, al, 3 Oct. 2021 The missing haunt Mexico’s collective memory, a crushing testament to the inability of government after government to staunch the bloodshed and bring criminals to justice. Oscar Lopez, New York Times, 3 Oct. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near inability

in a big way


in absentia

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Statistics for inability

Last Updated

24 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inability.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

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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.

More from Merriam-Webster on inability

Nglish: Translation of inability for Spanish Speakers


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