First attested in the 1300s. From Middle English abilite (“suitability, aptitude, ability”), from Middle French habilité, from Old French ableté, from Latin habilitās (“aptness, ability”), from habilis (“apt, fit, skillful, able”), equivalent to able + -ity.
- (obsolete) Suitableness. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 17th century.]
- (uncountable) The quality or state of being able; capacity to do or of doing something; having the necessary power. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).]
- This phone has the ability to have its software upgraded wirelessly.
- This wood has the ability to fight off insects, fungus, and mold for a considerable time.
- 2013 July 19, Peter Wilby, “Finland spreads word on schools”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 6, page 30:
- Imagine a country where children do nothing but play until they start compulsory schooling at age seven. Then, without exception, they attend comprehensives until the age of 16. Charging school fees is illegal, and so is sorting pupils into ability groups by streaming or setting.
- The legal wherewithal to act. [First attested in the mid 17th century.]
- (now limited to Scotland dialects) Physical power. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).]
- (archaic) Financial ability. [First attested in the early 16th century.]
- (uncountable) A unique power of the mind; a faculty. [First attested in the late 16 th century.]
- 1884, Francis Bacon, Of Studies:
- Natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study -
- (countable) A skill or competence in doing; mental power; talent; aptitude. [First attested in the early 17 th century.]
- They are persons of ability, who will go far in life.
- She has an uncanny ability to defuse conflict.
- 1769, King James Bible, Acts 11:29
- Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren.
- 1848, Thomas Macaulay, The History of England from the Accession of James II:
- The public men of England, with much of a peculiar kind of ability
- 2011 November 10, Jeremy Wilson, “England Under 21 5 Iceland Under 21 0: match report”, in Telegraph:
- The most persistent tormentor was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored a hat-trick in last month’s corresponding fixture in Iceland. His ability to run at defences is instantly striking, but it is his clever use of possession that has persuaded some shrewd judges that he is an even better prospect than Theo Walcott.
- Ability, capacity : these words come into comparison when applied to the higher intellectual powers.
- Ability has reference to the active exercise of our faculties. It implies not only native vigor of mind, but that ease and promptitude of execution which arise from mental training. Thus, we speak of the ability with which a book is written, an argument maintained, a negotiation carried on, etc. It always supposes something to be done,[usage 1] and the power of doing it.
- Capacity has reference to the receptive powers. In its higher exercises it supposes great quickness of apprehension and breadth of intellect, with an uncommon aptitude for acquiring and retaining knowledge. Hence it carries with it the idea of resources and undeveloped power. Thus we speak of the extraordinary capacity of such men as Lord Bacon, Blaise Pascal, and Edmund Burke. "Capacity," says H. Taylor, "is requisite to devise, and ability to execute, a great enterprise."
- The word abilities, in the plural, embraces both these qualities, and denotes high mental endowments.
- (quality or state of being able): capacity, faculty, capability
- (a skill or competence): See Thesaurus:skill
- (high level of skill or capability): talent, cleverness, dexterity, aptitude
- (suitability or receptiveness to be acted upon): capability, faculty, capacity, aptness, aptitude
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
- ability in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.
- ability in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
- “ability” in Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2002, →ISBN, page 4.