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[uh-bil-i-tee] /əˈbɪl ɪ ti/
noun, plural abilities.
power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc.
competence in an activity or occupation because of one's skill, training, or other qualification:
the ability to sing well.
abilities, talents; special skills or aptitudes:
Composing music is beyond his abilities.
Origin of ability
1350-1400; Middle English (h)abilite < Middle French < Latin habilitās aptitude, equivalent to habili(s) handy (see able) + -tās -ty2; replacing Middle English ablete < Old French < Latin, as above
Related forms
subability, noun, plural subabilities.
Can be confused
ability, capacity.
1. capability; proficiency, expertness, dexterity.
Synonym Study
2. Ability, faculty, talent denote qualifications or powers. Ability is a general word for power, native or acquired, enabling one to do things well: a person of great ability; ability in mathematics. Faculty denotes a natural ability for a particular kind of action: a faculty of saying what he means. Talent is often used to mean a native ability or aptitude in a special field: a talent for music or art. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for abilities
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Nothing is so tiresome to a man of any taste or abilities as what every body knows.

  • All their abilities should scent of piety and the fear of God.

  • In Calendar's driver, however, he had an adversary of abilities by no means to be despised.

    The Black Bag Louis Joseph Vance
  • You are too doubtful of your own abilities, honest Joseph; that's your fault.

    Clarissa, Volume 3 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • Your abilities, my Imogen, appear to be of the very first description.

    Imogen William Godwin
British Dictionary definitions for abilities


noun (pl) -ties
possession of the qualities required to do something; necessary skill, competence, or power: the ability to cope with a problem
considerable proficiency; natural capability: a man of ability
(pl) special talents
Word Origin
C14: from Old French from Latin habilitās aptitude, handiness, from habilisable
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for abilities



late 14c., from Old French ableté "expert at handling (something)," from Latin habilitatem (nominative habilitas) "aptitude," noun of quality from habilis "easy to manage, handy" (see able). One case where a Latin silent -h- failed to make a return in English (despite efforts of 16c.-17c. scholars); see H.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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