AskDefine | Define ability

Dictionary Definition



1 the quality of being able to perform; a quality that permits or facilitates achievement or accomplishment [ant: inability]
2 possession of the qualities (especially mental qualities) required to do something or get something done; "danger heightened his powers of discrimination" [syn: power] [ant: inability]

User Contributed Dictionary



From ableté (French habileté, earlier spelling habilité with silent h), from habilitas aptitude, ability, from habilis apparently. See able.



  1. The quality or state of being able; power to perform, whether physical, moral, intellectual, conventional, or legal; capacity; skill or competence in doing; sufficiency of strength, skill, resources, etc.; -- in the plural, faculty, talent.
    • Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren - Acts 11:29
    • Natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study - Bacon
    • The public men of England, with much of a peculiar kind of ability - Macaulay
  2. Considerable proficiency; natural capability.


Usage notes

  • 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 something to be done, 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


the quality or state of being able
natural capability
  • Japanese: 才能 (sainō)
  • Kurdish:
    Sorani: توانا


(Version: Anniversary,Pre-Anniversary): a - disjoined b

Extensive Definition

Ability may also refer to:
ability in German: Fähigkeit
ability in Estonian: võime
ability in Japanese: アビリティ

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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