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[yoo-til-i-tee] /yuˈtɪl ɪ ti/
noun, plural utilities.
the state or quality of being useful; usefulness:
This chemical has no utility as an agricultural fertilizer.
something useful; a useful thing.
a public service, as a telephone or electric-light system, a streetcar or railroad line, or the like.
Compare public utility (def 1).
Often, utilities. a useful or advantageous factor or feature:
the relative utilities of a religious or a secular education.
Economics. the capacity of a commodity or a service to satisfy some human want.
the principle and end of utilitarian ethics; well-being or happiness; that which is conducive to the happiness and well-being of the greatest number.
Computers. utility program.
utilities, stocks or bonds of public utilities.
a grade of beef immediately below commercial.
(of domestic animals) raised or kept as a potentially profitable product rather than for show or as pets:
utility breeds; utility livestock.
having or made for a number of useful or practical purposes rather than a single, specialized one:
a utility knife.
designed chiefly for use or service rather than beauty, high quality, or the like:
a utility vehicle; utility furniture.
Origin of utility
1350-1400; Middle English utilite < Old French utelite < Latin ūtilitās, equivalent to ūtil(is) useful (see utile) + -itās -ity
Related forms
nonutility, noun, plural nonutilities. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for utility
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Every spot of color on bird or insect it finds to be the trace of a utility.

    Travels in South Kensington Moncure Daniel Conway
  • We are led by suggestion and association to believe that there must be wisdom and utility in what all do.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • The barracks of the men were of brick and concrete, and were built with no less regard for appearance than utility.

    To Kiel in the 'Hercules' Lewis R. Freeman
  • The friendship whose motive is utility is the friendship of sordid souls.

    Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde
  • May its success and its utility be as great as in the case of those which have preceded it.

    The Purpose of the Papacy John S. Vaughan
British Dictionary definitions for utility


noun (pl) -ties
  1. the quality of practical use; usefulness; serviceability
  2. (as modifier): a utility fabric
something useful
  1. a public service, such as the bus system; public utility
  2. (as modifier): utility vehicle
  1. the ability of a commodity to satisfy human wants
  2. the amount of such satisfaction See disutility
  1. a measure of the total benefit or disadvantage attaching to each of a set of alternative courses of action
  2. (as modifier): utility function See also expected utility, decision theory
(Austral & NZ) Also called utility truck, (informal) ute. a small truck with an open body and low sides, often with a removable tarpaulin cover; pick-up
a piece of computer software designed for a routine task, such as examining or copying files
Word Origin
C14: from Old French utelite, from Latin ūtilitās usefulness, from ūtī to use
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 utility

late 14c., "fact of being useful," from Old French utilite "usefulness" (late 13c.), earlier utilitet (12c.), from Latin utilitatem (nominative utilitas) "usefulness, serviceableness, profit," from utilis "usable," from uti (see use (v.)). As a shortened form of public utility it is recorded from 1930.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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