English - Etymology
First attested in the 1300s. From Middle English abilite (“suitability, aptitude, ability”), from Middle French habilité, from Old French ablete, from Latin habilitās (“aptness, ability”), from habilis (“apt, fit, skillful, able”). See also able.
English - Pronunciation
English - Noun
- (obsolete) Suitableness. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 17th century.]
- (uncountable) The quality or state of being able; capacity to do; capacity of doing something; having the necessary power. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).]
- 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.]
(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.
- (skill or competence): Usually used in the plural.
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, 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 Wikisaurus:skill
- (high level of skill or capability): talent, cleverness, dexterity, aptitude
- (suitability or receptiveness to be acted upon): capability, faculty, capacity, aptness, aptitude